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William Douglas Arant (1897-1987)
William Douglas Arant (1897-1987)
William Douglas Arant was born on a farm in Waverly, Alabama on May 18, 1897. He lived until the age of ninety and was still coming to the office until a few months prior to his death in October 1987.

Throughout his career, Mr. Arant was first and foremost a lawyer. He was elected to the Presidency of the Alabama State Bar in 1936 after having served previously on the Board of Bar Commissioners from 1931 to 1940. He was named the Birmingham Bar Association’s Lawyer of the Year in 1976.

Mr. Arant received his early education in Alabama. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1918, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1919. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1920. And he received his law degree from Yale University in 1923 where he served as Editor in Chief of the Yale Law Journal. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as well as the Order of the Coif.

In 1923, he joined the firm of Tillman, Bradley & Baldwin in Birmingham, Alabama. He became a partner in the firm in 1927 and a name partner in its successor in 1945. At the time of his death the firm name was, and remains today, Bradley, Arant, Rose & White.

Law was not just a job to Mr. Arant. It was, as he saw it, a profession whose responsibilities extended far beyond day to day case work. Mr. Arant was an organizer of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, which he served as its president. He also sponsored the first African American for membership in the Birmingham Bar Association. That young attorney would later become Justice Oscar Adams, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, and the first African American elected to statewide office in Alabama.

Mr. Arant served his country in various positions including Chief Counsel for the Petroleum Administration Board of the National Recovery Administration in Washington D.C. He also served as Chairman of the Regional Labor Board in Atlanta, and as a member of the Board of Appeals of the Selective Service System in Alabama. He was President of the Birmingham Civic Symphony Association and the Birmingham Civic Opera Association.

During his tenure as president of the Alabama State Bar, Mr. Arant urged the formation of a Junior Bar Association as a means of bringing together younger lawyers from all over the state to focus on professional issues of significant interest to them. As a result of his efforts, the Alabama State Junior Bar became a reality in 1937. Mr. Arant thereafter regularly attended meetings of the Junior Bar and came to know many of the young lawyers throughout the state. That Junior Bar is now the Young Lawyers Section of the Alabama State Bar.

Mr. Arant’s honors, in addition to those previously noted, included election to the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1978 and induction into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame in 1993.

Mr. Arant was among Alabama’s pre-eminent lawyers of the 20th Century and he is now honored with induction into the Alabama Lawyers’ Hall of Fame.

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