Nearly 70 years ago, California Governor C.C. Young sat down at his desk and signed the State Bar Organization Bill, ending a decade of campaigning for an integrated bar.
This month, and several generations later, the state's lawyers will vote on whether the State Bar should be abolished.
With the advent of the new, unified State Bar, a 1927 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle called the move toward self-governance "a heavy responsibility, but it is what the profession asked for."
The editorial went on to say, "If the lawyers carry out their purpose of elevating the tone of their profession, preserving its fine traditions and eliminating the shyster, they will have done a great public service."
A unified bar was approved by the legislature in 1925, but then Gov. Richardson tossed it into the waste basket.
The bill, SB 9, was reintroduced the first day of the 1927 legislative session by Senators H.C. Nelson of Eureka and Frank C. Weller of Glendale. It passed both houses, was signed by the governor and became Chapter 34 of the Statutes of 1927.
The State Bar Journal of the day praised the efforts of those lawyers who worked tirelessly through the years for the unified bar, giving special mention to Joseph J. Webb of San Francisco.
Chief Justice William Waste, who was designated "No. 1" on the new bar's membership roll, presided over the pre-organization dinner held at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on Nov. 17, 1927. Col. William J. Donovan, assistant to the U.S. attorney general, told the gathering, "The surest way for members of our profession to regain lost prestige is by self-government and self-regulation," he said. "We must uphold our honor, restore confidence and win back respect for our calling."