Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association
History of Black Lawyers in San Diego
The Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association would not exist but for the tireless efforts of the men and women who came before us, laying the foundation for our success. Knowing, and understanding, their challenges helps maintain our connection to the reasons the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association was founded.
For a comprehensive report on the history of San Diego’s black legal community, please read Pioneers, Warriors, Advocates: San Diego’s Black Legal Community, 1890-2013, by Robert Fikes, Jr.
We should never overlook attorney Leonard C. Perry from Cleveland, Ohio. Len became a lawyer in Ohio in 1951, and retired to San Diego in the summer of 1970 after twenty-five years of government service.
Prior to his retirement, Len proudly served as Contracting Officer over one of the nation’s top priority space programs. Throughout the sixties, he was the only minority manager for a staff of over fifty government employees (lawyers, engineers, accountants and production specialists), spread across four locations over the United States.
In June 1970, Len bought a home in Princess Del Cerro; two blocks from the man who eventually became his best friend, Judge Earl B. Gilliam. Earl, who taught at Western State College of Law, convinced Len to take the California Bar exam so he too could teach at Western. After a bit of home-study, Len took and passed the California Bar. Judge Gilliam proudly swore Len into the California Bar, and Len began teaching part-time alongside his friend the following semester.
Leonard was a member of many associations in Ohio, California, and nationally, most notably the Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternities, where he served as Sire Archon during the seventies. He was included in the Marquis “Who’s Who in America Law” (second edition), was a member of the National Bar Association, the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, the Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the Board of Trustees San Diego Community College, Scholarship Award Board for the Aero-Space and Flight Museum, and the Grand Slammers Bridge Group.
Though an attorney for fifty-five years, Len appeared only once in court before a Judge – when he was sworn in by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington DC.
Leonard, now 92, still has a passion for the law and its promise of justice.
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