Revered Sirote Attorneys Honored for Contributions to Civil Rights Movement at Journey for Justice Gala
Sirote & Permutt attorneys J. Mason Davis, Jr. and Gen. Edward M. Friend, Jr. (dec.) were among 28 honorees Saturday, May 4, 2013 at the Journey for Justice Gala sponsored by the Birmingham Bar Foundation, the Magic City Bar Association and the Birmingham Bar Association. The honorees were saluted before a crowd of nearly 700 in attendance for their courageous actions in the name of justice during the Civil Rights Movement.
“We are very proud that Sirote’s J. Mason Davis and Gen. Eddie Friend were two of the honorees saluted by the Bar Community for their efforts to bring about racial equality,” says Nikki Tucker Thomas, Birmingham Bar Foundation executive director.
“The Journey for Justice Gala provided our legal community with an opportunity to remember and recognize the contributions of legal professionals such as J. Mason Davis and Gen. Friend, who will serve as an inspiration to this generation and future generations of lawyers,” adds O. Tameka Wren, 2013 Magic City Bar Association president.
The event also previewed a remarkable 26-minute documentary film “Preserving Justice,” which highlights attorneys’ contributions and the roles they played in the important events of the Civil Rights Movement. Clarence B. Jones, former personal counsel, speech writer and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the keynote address.
In 1935, Davis was born in Birmingham. He was educated in segregated Birmingham public schools and later attended Talladega College where he received an A.B. degree with highest honors. After graduating from the State University of New York School of Law as a member of the Law Review, he returned to Birmingham and began his law practice in 1960. From the day he returned to Birmingham, Davis has remained a dedicated and inspirational leader in the civil rights movement.
As the attorney for a number of students who participated in the widely publicized Huntsville lunch counter sit-ins during 1961 and 1962, Davis played a key role in the desegregation of Alabama. He argued a series of appeals and won every case at the Court of Appeals.
Like Davis, Friend, was also born in Birmingham, although some 23 years earlier. He graduated from Phillips High School and was a 1933 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Alabama. After receiving his law degree from Alabama in 1935, he practiced law in Birmingham until 1941 when he entered military service.
While serving his country, Friend served in North Africa, participated in the invasion of Sicily and then landed on Utah Beach on June 7, 1944, the day after D-day. He had a long and distinguished military career and was released from active duty with the rank of colonel, although he continued his military service in the Army Reserve retiring with the rank of Brigadier General.
After the war, “General Friend” (as he was fondly named) returned to Birmingham to practice law where he co-founded the firm now known as Sirote & Permutt. While Friend was proficient in the fields of tax law and corporate and estate planning, he is most fondly remembered for being a compassionate humanitarian.
Early in his career he founded, organized and served as the first president of the Birmingham Legal Aid Society, where he vigorously campaigned for improved race relations and worked tirelessly to that end. While serving as president of the Birmingham Bar Association, Friend fought for the admission of persons of color, and his efforts successfully opened the organization to many more black attorneys. As Davis has stated many times, “General Friend knew instinctively what was fair, just and honorable; he did the right things for the right reasons.”
Complete List of the Journey for Justice Honorees
The Honorable Oscar W. Adams, Jr.; Norman Amaker; James K. Baker; Abe Berkowitz; Orzell Billingsley, Jr.; Harvey Burg; The Honorable U.W. Clemon; Jerome “Buddy” Cooper; J. Mason Davis, Jr.; Edward Friend, Jr.; The Honorable Peter A. Hall; Charles Hamilton Houston; The Honorable Frank M. Johnson; Paul Johnston; Dr. Clarence B. Jones; The Honorable Tom King, Sr.; The Honorable Thurgood Marshall; The Honorable Nina Miglionico; Charles C. Morgan, Jr.; Constance Baker Motley; The Honorable Demetriuis C. Newton; J. Vernon Patrick; The Honorable J. Richmond Pearson; The Honorable Arthur D. Shores; C.H. Erskine Smith; The Honorable Robert Vance, Sr.; The Honorable David Vann; W.L. Williams, Jr.