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50th Anniversary Historical Timeline: 1952-2002

Since its founding in 1952, the American Bar Foundation (ABF) has become the preeminent provider of empirical research fundamental to legal institutions and legal processes. It has achieved this preeminence by supporting independent research that combines the best tools of social science analysis with a variety of intellectual perspectives associated with disciplines ranging from law, economics, political science and history to sociology, psychology and anthropology. Today, ABF Research Fellows are among the leading scholars in all of these disciplines.

While it is essential that the Foundation draw on the talents of leading scholars in their fields, it is equally important that these scholars use their talents to understand legal phenomena as they affect real people and events. The Foundation's projects repeatedly produce findings of specific relevance to the legal profession and of more general importance to our society.

Key to the strength of the ABF is the ongoing and significant financial support generously provided by the American Bar Endowment (ABE). The ABF has also benefited in its first half-century from the valued contributions of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. The story of this first half-century is summarized in the pages that follow and is dedicated to all of those individuals who have made the first 50 years just the beginning.

George Maurice Morris

George Maurice Morris, of Washington D.C., Chairman of the Fundraising Committee, addresses a group of ABA leaders visiting the site chosen for the American Bar Center. Temporary campus housing built during World War II is in the background.

Earl Warren

The Honorable Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, speaks at the Bar Center dedication in Rockefeller Chapel on August 19, 1954.

Joanne Martin receives Life Fellows plaque

ABF Assistant Director Joanne Martin receives her Life Fellows plaque from Fellows Secretary Herbert Sledd in 1995.

Ruth Bader receives award

The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, receives The Fellows annual award for outstanding research in law and government from Marna Tucker, Vice Chair of The Fellows, 1995 Annual Meeting.

Robert MacCrate

Robert MacCrate

Bryant Garth

Bryant Garth

Virginia and Joseph Woods

Virginia and Joseph A. Woods, Jr.

Jerome Farris

Honorable Jerome Farris

Jacqueline Allee

Jacqueline Allee 2000–2002 ABF President and husband Chesterfield Smith at The Fellows 2001 Annual Meeting in San Diego, California.

Zona Hostetler with Lloyd Lochridge

Fellows Vice Chair Zona Hostetler with Lloyd Lochridge, 2001 recipient of The Fellows 50 Year Award, at the San Diego meeting.


The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation in some form or another was a concept present in even the earliest discussions concerning the creation of the Foundation. Early notes and minutes contain multiple references to a group of lawyers, who through their professional standing, generosity, and ultimately their membership would support the Foundation that had its beginning as a mechanism to raise funds for the construction of a bar center.


The American Bar Association (ABA) Board of Governors adopts a resolution directing the "formation of a nonprofit corporation named the American Bar Association Foundation."


The new American Bar Center is dedicated at the ABA Annual Meeting.


The first Annual Meeting of The Fellows is held in conjunction with the mid-year meeting of the American Bar Association (ABA).


The 10th Anniversary Report is dedicated to The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation "who have as a common bond their desire to fulfill their responsibilities to the law and to the profession by participating in and supporting the activities of the Foundation."


Between July 1971 and December 1972, the American Bar Foundation's (ABF) publications department expanded its work to become a full-fledged publishing operation, including space advertising and direct mail promotion.


The Board of Directors of the American Bar Foundation (ABF) authorized the organization of an Oral History Program for the purpose of assembling a historical record about the legal profession and the organized bar.


Barbara Curran is appointed the Foundation's first female Associate Executive Director in 1976.


At the dedication of the new Northwestern University Law School and American Bar Center, Executive Director of the Foundation, John P. Heinz, presented an essay that became part of his 1984 Annual Report. In that essay/report, he noted that the legal profession "has an obligation to devote substantial resources to the effort to deepen our understanding of legal phenomena." He concluded that "We have barely begun."


The Fellows hold their first reception on foreign soil in London, 1985.


In his keynote address at the American Bar Foundation (ABF) London Symposium, Robert Meserve (former ABF and ABA President) recalled a quote from Daniel Webster: "Justice is the great aim of man here on earth." Meserve concluded, "It is an objective we all should seek. I think that we do and that the Foundation is one of our better tools."


Bryant G. Garth, Dean of the Indiana University School of Law, is appointed Director of the Foundation.


In 1991, when Dean Garth became the American Bar Foundation's (ABF) Director, a Long-Range Planning Committee began preparation of a new Mission Statement for the Foundation based upon the committee's review of the American Bar Foundation's (ABF) history. The statement is adopted by the American Bar Foundation (ABF) Board at its February meeting.


Marna Tucker, Chair of The Fellows, challenges all lawyers to join "in searching for concrete ways to restructure our profession to make it more congenial, more humane, and more responsive to its new constituencies."


Robert MacCrate, President of the American Bar Foundation (ABF), reports to the Annual Meeting of The Fellows and summarizes the Long Range Planning Report of the Foundation. He notes that the Foundation "in 1997 is faced with a serious deficiency in available resources that threatens its continued vitality and its position of leadership in law-related empirical research." Among the suggestions that he makes to address these difficulties, he calls for the continuing support of The Fellows.


In his 1998 Annual Report, American Bar Foundation (ABF) Director Bryant Garth notes that "the power of law in the United States now depends to a great extent on the ability of legal actors to draw on the most sophisticated research possible and to remake legal institutions in accordance with that research."

Director of the Foundation, Bryant G. Garth describes the new category of "International Fellow," adding that they "will help us to understand the increasingly global legal profession and suggest research projects that will contribute to professional progress."


The Honorable Jerome Farris, U. S. Court of Appeals Judge, becomes the first African-American Chair of The Fellows.


The American Bar Association (ABA) Board of Governors decides at its August meeting to move the Association's headquarters to the former Quaker Oats Building. After careful consideration and extensive space planning consultation, the Board of Directors of the American Bar Foundation (ABF) decides at its October meeting to stay in the Bar Center on Lake Shore Drive.

Under Foundation President Jacqueline Allee and Fellows Chair Zona Hostetler, The Fellows launch a long range planning effort.


The Foundation launches it 50th anniversary year celebration with the publication of its illustrated history provided to The Fellows at their Annual Meeting held in Philadelphia.

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