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Vernon Z. Crawford (1919 – 1985)
Vernon Z. Crawford (1919 - 1985)
Vernon Z. Crawford was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1919 and graduated from the Allen Institute.  During World War II he served as a merchant seaman and in 1951 he graduated from Alabama State University with a Bachelor of Science degree.  Crawford attended Brooklyn Law School from which he graduated in 1956.  Returning to Mobile, he established the city’s first African-American law firm which was located on Davis Avenue.

Some of the important lawsuits which were handled by his firm included the constitutional law landmark L. B. Sullivan v. New York Times, State of Alabama v. Willie Seals, Bolden v. City of Mobile, which challenged the constitutionality of Mobile’s commission form of municipal government and brought about the mayor-council system of government, Birdie Mae Davis v. Mobile County School Board, and Broughton v. City of Mobile.  While working pro bono for a white Kilby Prison inmate, Crawford successfully obtained the first writ of error coram nobis in the history of Mobile County.

Crawford mentored many of the successful African-American attorneys in Mobile.  Among his law partners and associates were A. J. Cooper, who served as mayor of Prichard; Michael Figures, who served in the Alabama State Senate and who is also an inductee of the Alabama Lawyers’ Hall of Fame; Cain Kennedy, a Mobile County circuit judge; and David Coar, a United States District Court Judge.  He was honored by the black lawyers’ association in Mobile when that organization was named the Vernon Z. Crawford Bay Area Bar Association.

Crawford was a cooperating attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense fund.  He founded the Gulf Federal Savings and Loan in Mobile, and he continued a successful law practice in Mobile until his death in 1986.  His legal papers are preserved today in the University of South Alabama Archives.

Vernon Crawford is remembered as the “dean” of African American attorneys in Mobile.

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