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Dennis Archer Becomes First African American President-Elect of the American Bar Association

September 9, 2002

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer on August 13 began a one-year term as president-elect of the American Bar Association, at the close of the ABA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., becoming the first African American to hold the position. After his one-year term as president-elect, Archer will become president at the association's annual meeting in San Francisco in 2003.

Addressing the ABA House of Delegates, Archer noted the significance of his presence as the first lawyer of color to come before them as president-elect of the American Bar Association.

Archer served two four-year terms as mayor of Detroit from 1994 to 2001, and during his last year as mayor was also president of the National League of Cities. After leaving the mayor's office, Archer was elected chairman of Dickinson Wright PLLC, a two hundred person Detroit-based law firm with offices in Michigan and Washington, D.C.

He said, "I am extremely proud to be here. I am also keenly aware of those who came before me—those who were not able to contribute to the great dialogues that we have at the ABA, the great debates on public policy and legal issues. I think of the tremendous contributions these lawyers and others could have made to this association had they been allowed to join."

Archer also recognized the contributions of other lawyers of color who came before him. He said, "I am here because of the hard work of others. Others who were denied the opportunities that I have had. People who broke barriers and opened doors, who paved the way for me ... William Hastie, Damon Keith, Charles Hamilton Houston, Constance Baker Motely, Wade McCree and Mr. Justice Thurgood Marshall."

In 1985 Michigan Gov. James Blanchard appointed Archer an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He was elected to an eight-year term the following year. In his final year on the bench, Archer was named the most respected judge in Michigan by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist the public, lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.