BRBA member Brian T. Daniels wrote the following article for the Cherokee Tribune about Law Day. Brian T. Daniels is an Assistant Solicitor-General in the Cherokee County Solicitor General’s Office. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared May 1 Law Day in 1958 as an “opportunity better to understand and appreciate the manifold virtues” of our government. The declaration of Law Day explained several principles Eisenhower wanted the American people to celebrate. Specially, we celebrate the principle of guaranteed fundamental rights of individuals under the law. The rule of law distinguishes our governmental system from the type of government that rules by might alone. Finally, our government has served as an inspiration and a beacon of light for oppressed peoples of the world seeking freedom, justice, and equality of the individual under laws.
The Blue Ridge Bar Association plans to observe law day in May at a date to be determined. The Rotary Club of Canton will host the event. Typically, the Bar Association invites a speaker, to be announced. Unfortunately, as the Novel Coronavirus is sweeping Georgia, the Bar Association and the Rotary Club will reassess the situation closer to the event, and make an announcement if there is a change of plans for the event. Currently, there is no plan to cancel Law Day.
The Cherokee County Bar Association successfully ran a canned food drive this fall, donating its proceeds to Never Alone Inc. The Bar Association is beginning another food drive this spring, recognizing tremendous need for food, hygiene products, and cleaning supplies among the less fortunate in the county. If readers wish to donate, they can drop off items directly to the local MUST Ministries office. The local MUST Ministries is on Brown Industrial Parkway in Canton.
The Bar Association will present an annual award to a non-lawyer further commemorate the event, and the important contributions to law given by every day citizens. The Liberty Bell Distinguished Service Award is given to a non-lawyer who contributes outside of their employment to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the legal profession.
This year’s law day theme is the 19th Amendment, commemorating the sacrifices and achievements of the women’s suffrage movement. The 19th Amendment was ratified 100 years ago and prohibits state or federal governments from denying citizens the right to vote because of sex.
The suffrage movement was made up of a patchwork of grassroots organizations, many who had different goals and strategies. In 1848, organization began at the national level when about 300 leaders of the movement met in Seneca Falls, New York. However, suffragettes often had different plans, some focused on promoting women’s voting state by state, while others advocated focus on passing a national amendment. Other arguments included whether women’s rights advocates should support the 15th Amendment, granting African American men the right to vote. Some suffragists suggested supporting the amendment as a broader initiative to expand the vote, while others opposed it, arguing that supporting the amendment would only further entrench the idea that women were second-class citizens to men.
The American suffragist movement grew out of the abolitionist movement after the Civil War. The 19th Amendment was first proposed to the US House of Representatives in 1878, and was proposed and defeated every year until it was ratified in 1920. Some states allowed women voting in their own constitutions, before ratification, but Georgia was not among them.
After Congress approved the Amendment, the debate turned to the states. Seventy-five percent of the states, or 36 states in 1919, must ratify a Constitutional Amendment. In the end, famously, Tennessee was the 36th State to ratify the amendment. Harry Burns, an anti-suffrage Tennessee state representative, cast a last minute swing vote to ratify the Amendment after being persuaded by the impassioned arguments of his mother.
Georgia Sen. William J. Harris was the sole southern senator to vote for the amendment. However, the amendment faced local opposition in implementation. Georgia was the very first state to reject the 19th Amendment, but did ratify the Amendment in 1970. Women were unable to cast ballots in the 1920 national election in Georgia, as the state required registration at least 6 months before the election. Women in Georgia began voting in national elections in 1922, and have been doing so ever since.
The Blue Ridge Bar Association encourages readers to consider the impact of the 19th Amendment on their own personal lives, and consider how the lessons learned from suffragettes can be applied to modern problems. Take some time on Law Day to reflect on the importance of Law in a free society.