A Brief History of the Arlington County Bar Association

By George W. Dodge, Esquire

The Arlington County Bar Association was founded on April 26, 1926 and consisted of twenty-six charter members. Of those twenty-six, twelve eventually served as Arlington Bar President and five charter members, Benjamin Hedrick, Emery Hosmer, Walter McCarthy, Hugh Reid, and Harry R. Thomas had distinguished careers as jurists. In addition, charter members Crandall Mackey, Frank Ball, Sr., William Gloth and Lawrence Douglas served as Commonwealth Attorneys. Seventy attorneys have presided as Arlington County Bar Presidents with Frank Ball Jr., Charles Jesse, Amos Crounse, Thomas Phillips and Foster Hagan serving two terms. The Arlington County Bar Association’s initial president, Frank Ball, epitomizes the quality and independent leadership of the bar. Ball served as Arlington’s Commonwealth Attorney and later was elected to the state Senate. According to Arlington Commonwealth Attorney William Hassan, Frank Ball was fondly referred to as “The Wizard” for his ability to enchant a jury. An opponent of massive resistance and the poll tax, Ball represented the Arlington School Board in litigation for desegregation.

The Arlington community has been served by the Arlington County Bar Association in a variety of ways during its existence. A high level of participation pro-bono work is a trademark of the bar. In the early 1950s, bar members had certain days in which they received pro-bono referrals. Law Day, a day in which bar members speak on legal issues at schools and other public locations, has been actively and continuously promoted by the bar since the early 1960s. The Arlington Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) began in October 1969. More than 100,000 persons have received referrals for initial consultation at a nominal fee. This program continues daily as a major public service provided by the bar. For twenty-three consecutive years bar members have provided advice at the bar’s booth at the Arlington County Fair as well as through Legal Services of Northern Virginia. The Arlington County Bar Association has been active in Christmas in April, the Glebe School homework club, and mentoring programs. A variety of causes have also received financial assistance from the bar. In addition, the bar established and continues to support the Walter T. McCarthy Law Library, which is also open to the public. The development of that law library was spearheaded by Tom Phillips, one of the bar’s most influential members.