As a part of their February 2012 Black History series, the Cleveland Plain Dealer profiled the accomplishments of people and institutions that through history have made a significant impact in and for Northeast Ohio's Black community. Given attorney Norman S. Minor's talent, impact on the legal community of his day, and dedication to paving the way for Black attorneys succeeding him, it is unsurprising that the Plain Dealer prominently featured our Bar Association's namesake, in its 2012 Black History series.
Born in Illinois in 1901, Norman S. Minor moved, with his parents, to Cleveland at the age of 4. He graduated from Central High School in 1921, and attended the University of Michigan for 2 years. In 1927, he graduated with an LL.B Degree from John Marshall Law School, and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1928. In 1930 Norman S. Minor became Cuyahoga County's first Black Assistant Prosecutor.
Given the discriminatory practices of that day, for years in the prosecutor's office, Norman S. Minor was assigned cases involving only Black defendants. In an article on Norman S. Minor titled Cleveland's Living Legend in Law, featured in the November 1963 edition of Ebony Magazine, Norman S. Minor gave the following response to the limits placed on him during his early years at the prosecutor's office, "...I said to myself, Norman Minor some people want you to fail, but you can't. Fail and who'll take your place?"
Armed with this conviction, Norman S. Minor worked tirelessly and effectively to impel equality within the prosecutor's office and to mentor Black Attorneys succeeding him. Eventually, his trial skills could not be denied, and he emerged as one of Cleveland's best criminal trial lawyers, having prosecuted more than 5000 felony cases.
In 1948, after 18 years with the Prosecutor's Office, Norman S. Minor switched sides of the table to become a highly respected defense attorney. His trial techniques were studied by attorneys and judges alike. In a 1997 article in Cleveland Magazine titled The Congressman, Louis Stokes (who along with brother Carl B. Stokes became law partners with Minor), stated, "Norm Minor was probably the greatest criminal lawyer in the history of our state. Charisma , beautifully modulated voice. He could mesmerize a jury. Judges were fascinated by him. And I don't care how long a case took-two months, six months-he never took a note. Never. And he never missed a point in any trial."
NSMBA proudly carries the name of Norman S. Minor. Our members build upon his legacy by becoming the leaders, mentors, experts and trailblazers of this age. And when our work is done here, we can say of ourselves and of our bar association that we have not failed, as we have positioned others to take our place, and to build upon our legacy.