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Posted on 11/18/2013


Photo taken on June 19, 1895



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James Alexander Chiles
African American Man
Attorney
Argued before the Supreme Court
Vintage Portrait


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Photo replaced on November 18, 2013
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First African American Lawyer to Argue a Case Before the Supreme Court in 1910

First African American Lawyer to Argue a Case Before the Supreme Court in 1910
James Alexander Chiles (1860 - 1930), was born in Virginia, one of eight children of Richard and Martha Chiles. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and earned his J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

When he moved to Lexington, Kentucky he became the first African American to practice law there. He was also listed as a real estate agent. In 1890 he opened his own law office at 304 W. Short Street. His business was a success; by 1907, he was one of four African American lawyers in the city.

In 1910 he argued in the Supreme Court case against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for desegregation of railroad coaches after he was removed by force to the Colored coach in spite of his first class ticket from Washington D.C. to Lexington.

Chiles was also an active member of the Colored Seventh Day Adventist congregation in Lexington; he was a trustee, deacon, and treasurer of the first church built in 1906 at the corner of Fifth and Upper Streets. His wife, Fannie J. Chiles, was the first librarian for the church.

FYI: You can read the courts ruling in J. Alexander Chiles, Plaintiff vs. Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company (argued April 18, 1910 -- decided on May 31, 1910) here:
www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/218/71

Bio: University of Kentucky
James Mullen, Photographer (Lexington, KY)

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