Maryland Supreme Court posthumously admits Black man to bar, 166 years after rejecting him

BALTIMORE, Md. (AP) — More than a century after Edward Garrison Draper was rejected for the Maryland Bar due to his race, he has been posthumously admitted.

The Supreme Court of Maryland attempted to right the past wrong by hold a special session Thursday to admit Draper, who was Black, to practice law in the state, news outlets reported.

Draper presented himself as a candidate to practice law in 1857 and a judge found him “qualified in all respects” — except for his skin color and so he was denied.

“Maryland was not at the forefront of welcoming Black applicants to the legal profession,” said former appellate Justice John G. Browning, of Texas, who helped with the petition calling for Draper’s admission. “But by granting posthumous bar admission to Edward Garrison Draper, this court places itself and places Maryland in the vanguard of restorative justice and demonstrates conclusively that justice delayed may not be justice denied.”

Maryland Supreme Court Justice Shirley M. Watts said it was the state's first posthumous admission to the bar. People “can only imagine” what Draper might have contributed to the legal profession and called the overdue admission an indication of “just how far our society and the legal profession have come.”

Judge Z. Collins Lee, who evaluated Draper in 1857, wrote that the Dartmouth graduate was “most intelligent and well informed" and would be qualified “if he was a free white Citizen of this State,” according to a transcription in a petition for the posthumous bar admission.