Arthur Shores was often referred to as “Alabama’s Drum Major for Justice.” Shores was one of the most successful black men and civil rights attorneys in Alabama and the nation. His landmark case, Lucy v. Adams, opened the doors at the University of Alabama for Ms. Autherine Lucy and all African Americans. The case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1955. The Court’s decision struck down the University of Alabama’s policy of denying admission based solely on race or color. Ms. Lucy became the first African American to attend the University of Alabama when she was admitted in 1956.
Shores was born on September 25, 1904 in Wenonah, Alabama. He was the oldest of nine children. After completing his primary education, he enrolled at Talladega College where he later graduated with a teaching degree in 1927. However, he never gave up on his dream of becoming an attorney, this led him to enrolling at the University of Kansas’ Law School in 1934 and then at La Salle Extension University where he was awarded his law degree.
In 1937, Shores passed the Alabama State Bar exam, which was considered one of the toughest bar exams in the nation. Shores became the first black attorney in Alabama to represent his own clients in court. He took cases that no other lawyer would take for fear of losing the case.
Before Shores’ famous Lucy v. Adams case, he successfully argued before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1944 on behalf of the Colored Association of Railroad Employees in Steele v. L. & N.R. CO. The case dealt with a whites-only railroad union that excluded African Americans and then denied them better jobs because they were not union members.
Shores’ association with the NAACP allowed him to work on some of the landmark cases in the modern Civil Rights era and with the premier civil rights attorneys in the nation, including future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Throughout his professional career as an attorney, Shores represented many Civil Rights legends including Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1968, he became the first black person to serve on the Birmingham City Council, a position he held for 10 years. Shores died on December 16, 1996, at the age of 92.