The Florida State Bar Association, a voluntary membership organization, came into being in 1907. One of Pensacola's most prominent attorneys of his day, W.A. Blount, was one of the founders and became the fifth president of that association in 1911. Later, in 1920-21, Mr. Blount became the first Florida lawyer to be elected president of the American Bar Association.
In 1950 the Florida State Bar Association was succeeded by "The Florida Bar" created by the Supreme Court of Florida as an integrated bar, membership in which is required as a condition to practice law in the stte. Voluntary local bar associations have continued and they, as well as individual attorneys, now receive considerable assistance and encouragement from the well staffed headquarters of The Florida Bar.
The first local bar association involving lawyers from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties was the Society of the Bar of the First Judicial Circuit which was chartered as a non-profit corporation by order of the then Circuit Judge, Thomas F. West, dated July 25, 1929, with the following officers:
President: Philip D. Beall, Sr.
Vice President: L.L. Fabisinski (Escambia County)
Vice President: R.A. McGeachy (Santa Rosa County)
Vice President: T.R. James (Okaloosa County)
Vice President: S.K. Gillis (Walton County)
Secretary-Treasurer: John M. Coe
These six, plus Purl G. Adams of Crestview, D. Stuart Gillis of DeFuniak Springs, and Sam Pasco of Pensacola were designated as the Executive Council. A total of 19 lawyers signed the petition for incorporation, one of whom was J. McHenry Jones, who was admitted to the Bar in 1923. The unique name selected for this early bar organization, The Society of the Bar for the First Judicial Circuit, attracted much statewide interest and was frequently commented on favorably at legal meeting in all sections of the state.
When the "Society" was chartered in 1929, there were probably less than 75 lawyers in the entire First Judicial Circuit. Law office locations were confined to the four county seats. With some irregularity, monthly meeting were usually held, and the places were rotated among the four counties. The meetings were held with dinner and included such delightful locations as the old Florida Town Hotel, the Valparaiso Inn, the Walton County Country Club and the San Carlos Hotel. Supreme Court Justices and other state officials were often available to be guest speakers at the dinner meetings of the "Society."
The original 1929 charter of the "Society" provided for the non-profit corporation to exist for a period of 99 years. A later proposed amendment would have changed this to "perpetual existence." The drafters of these charter provisions were dreamers whose dreams were not to come true. By 1971 there were two separate bar associations in the First Judicial Circuit, the Okalossa-Walton Bar Association and the Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association. That latter was chartered as a non-profit corporation on March 12, 1971. It was contemplated that the "Society" would continue in a less active role under a revised charter with quarterly, or at least annual, meetings for all of the members of these two offspring associations whose presidents would automatically serve as vice presidents of the continuing "Society." After a few years, the "Society" ceased functioning.
Since its inception, the Escambia~Santa Rosa Bar Association has been blessed with strong leadership. Following are the presidents who have served this great organization.
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