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Morgan is state bar’s first African American president

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by Tom Saulding, Indy Star

roderickmorganWhen Roderick Morgan moved to Indianapolis in 1991 to practice law, he said he could count the number of minorities serving as law firm partners on one hand.Nearly two decades later, he says: “I don’t know everyone’s name, and that’s a good thing.”

On Wednesday, he became the first African-American to be named president of the Indiana State Bar Association.

Morgan, a partner with Bingham McHale in Indianapolis, had been in the state bar’s line of succession for the past few years. And he said he appreciates the historical significance and achievement of leading an organization that at one time excluded blacks from membership.

“Slowly but surely, we’re knocking down those barriers, real or perceived,” said Morgan, 61. “Although I am the first African-American president of the state bar, I certainly hope it doesn’t mean that I’m the last.”

Morgan, a retired Army judge advocate general who has more than 29 years’ experience as a litigator, said he promises more inclusiveness and diversity as president. Morgan leads Bingham McHale’s diversified business solutions team and is a member of the business services advisory department and the governmental services department.

“I think it’s long overdue, but it’s an excellent choice, without question,” said Kevin Brown, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

“It’s a recognition that we (minorities) can go up to every level in law — even the highest and most powerful positions in the practice,” Brown said. “Rod’s going to have an opportunity to speak about issues that he is committed to . . . he can be a tremendous role model for not just law students but black lawyers as well.”

Morgan said he estimates that of 12,000 attorneys who are members of the Indiana bar, less than 5 percent identify themselves as a minority. He said his goal is to increase the percentage.

He’d also like to have lawyers in the state be more active in the organization.

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Written by Symphony

November 13, 2009 at 9:23 am

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