Back to history: the 1956 annual meeting convened at New York's Waldorf Astoria on the Friday after Thanksgiving. There was one full day of open general meeting with speakers and panel discussions, and one full day of business meeting. James Markle, the complete defense lawyer, was elected President and Harry Gair, a pioneer in teaching the pathology of trauma, became Dean. Jim Markle, who knew many Ontario lawyers, had sponsored two distinguished Queen's Counsel from Toronto, Edson Haines and Isadore Levinter. They added to the International reach of the Academy, and more importantly, created lasting and delightful friendships with many of our Fellows. It has always been a distinctive feature of the Academy that its members form bonds with their colleagues far deeper than brief meeting-time acquaintanceship. They correspond with each other throughout the year, visit or take side trips together, and bring their whole families into the circle of shared interest and concern.

The 1956 New York session was the last of the Thanksgiving-date conventions. Time was too short, travel from distant states was too hectic, and the effect on traditional family gatherings was too disruptive. The membership voted to have longer future conventions, beginning with an informal gathering for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, followed by four days of formal convention. There was no meeting in 1957, and 1958 was ushered in with dancing, singing and champagne toasts at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. The guest speakers included several state Supreme Court Justices and notable Law School Professors. Old-timers have never forgotten the moving address by Justice Musmanno on the subject of the Nuremberg trials.

Emile Zola Berman, the consummate defense advocate, was elected Dean. "Zuke" was something special. He could eat less, drink more, show less effect, and discourse longer into the early morning hours than any Fellow then, or since. The new President was a true son of the western plains, Truman Rucker. Many members remember Truman as a great defense champion. He was. Many others think of him as a great plaintiffs' lawyer. He was. The truth is that his home city, Tulsa, was not a crowded center of litigation. He took steady retainers from many insurance companies to pay the office overhead, but he took good plaintiffs' cases with prosperous zeal whenever one was offered without a conflict of interest. A fair estimate would be that a quarter of our total membership still follows a similar practice.


The calendar year 1958 was significant in that membership passed the 200 mark. Many new members attended their first convention in January, 1959, at the historic Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego. Sidney Gislason of Minnesota took over as President. Sid was all defense. The soft-spoken author from Urbana, Illinois, John Alan Appleman, became Dean. John, like Truman, was a switch-hitter, but at that time he was generally considered to be a defendant's man. It was becoming obvious that the Academy had no prejudice in its operations, and the defense leaders who were invited to join displayed no hesitancy in accepting.

The membership at Coronado pressed for an offshore meeting site for the 1960 sessions. Jamaica was selected for this first convention held outside the continental United States. Convention attendance was so unexpectedly successful that it overflowed from the primary hotel into two additional hotels. James Dooley of Chicago took on the duties of the presidency, and Abe Freedman of Philadelphia became the Dean. It is interesting to note that Jim Dooley was the first of the charter members to be elected to the presidency, and one of only three who ever held that office. The other two were Gerald Finley in 1963 and Perry Nichols in 1965. Only three of the original 21 charter members were ever elected to the Dean's chair, Harry Gair in 1956, Bill DeParcq in 1964 and George Allen, Sr. in 1966. It is clear that the founders did not intend to stake out priority claims to high office. Those that were later chosen deserved it through hard work and devoted loyalty.

The Jamaican weather and seashore was so warm and refreshing to all the winder-bound northern Fellows that the following year a Caribbean cruise was the featured attraction. There were preliminary Board meetings and general assemblies at the Waldorf Astoria on December 28 and 29, 1960 in wintry New York, but the major convention was held on the cruise ship S.S. Santa Paula during the two weeks, December 30, 1960 through January 12, 1961. "Zuke" Berman became President and Edson Haines of Toronto became Dean. He was the first of our Canadian brothers to be elected to high office.

The convention returned to dry land the next year, with an unprecedented five-day convention, from January 3 through 7, 1962, at the seaside Caleta Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, where Abe Freedman became President and Craig Spangenberg became Dean. This is as far from the U.S. border as the Academy ever ventured until the memorable meetings at Marbella, Spain and in Madrid and Lisbon, led by then-President, Don Farage in February, 1971.


Up until the short Jamaica trip in 1960 and the long cruise in 1961, Al Averbach's original idea of travel abroad had been completely shelved. The officers, directors and members were all busy lawyers with full case loads in courts where judges would not grant continuances for such non-judicial engagements as private bar association meetings. Conventions were scheduled for those few days around holiday time when courts would be closed, or slow to reopen. Intercontinental travel could hardly be accomplished in three-day sprints.

The present practice of holding the major convention and the annual general assembly during the active trial season did not begin until the February convention in 1966. Since then, February has become the usual date, interspersed with four March and two April meetings. Although the warm climate convention sites are always attractive, there is inevitable conflict with high priority court calendars and the spring meetings of many other legal associations. It does make regular convention attendance difficult to schedule for many of the Fellows.


Charter member and first President Al Averbach became almost completely inactive in Academy affairs after his initial two-year term of office expired. About half of the charter members served out their one, two or three-year terms of office after the 1955 elections and sought no further service on the Board or on the Committees. In addition to the names listed above as Presidents and Deans, charter members who remained very active were Art Combs, Jo Gardner and Virgil Wedge. New leadership and new ideas were coming from the pre-admitted group of 1954 and the new members who came on board in the membership classes of 1955 through 1958. Men whose opinions carried weight in the inner councils were the new-member Presidents and Deans already named and such men as Jim Dempsey, John Hill, Pat King, Jim McArdle, John Merchant, Hugh Miracle and John Watts. It is hard to stop there. Ed Grenier and Ray Kierr from the Class of '56, Ellsworth Evans and Camille Gravel from the Class of '57, Fred Betts and Raoul Magana from the Class of '58, were all policy makers who signed on for the long haul.

By modern admission standards, they were all surprisingly young men. There wasn't a sign of gray hair among them, except for a few frosty sprinkles worn by the elder George Allen. The average age was no more than 45 and a few were barely 40 when they signed in. The initial admission standards required the demonstration of exceptional talent in the trial and appellate fields for only 10 years. That meant active trial specialty work going back to 1945 or later. The great expansion in litigation had not begun until the close of World War 11, so many of the early members were in that first great wave. The Academy, in its formative years, was seeking out the young warriors fighting the trial wars on the courtroom battlefields, rather than the old generals sheltered behind their office desks. The founders were so young in outlook they did not consider that age and retirement might some day overtake them. They provided for only one class of members in the By-laws - the Fellows. The By-Law amendment creating the status of inactive or retired Associate Fellows and the separate status of Honorary Fellows did not occur until 1968.

By the end of 1958 there were 221 Fellows-active regular members. By the end of 1988, three decades later, there were 79 survivors from that group, a remarkable 35%. Not many still pace the courtroom corridors while the jury is out, but despite the inexorable infirmity of body they still retain sound minds and incisive insight.

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