Straker Bar to honor 4 with Trailblazer Awards

By Steve Thorpe
Legal News

The D. Augustus Straker Bar Association will honor Earlene Baggett-Hayes, Shelia Johnson, Reginald M. Turner and Lawrence C. Mann with its annual Trailblazer Awards on Thursday, June 13, starting at 5 p.m. at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. The award honors outstanding individuals who are trailblazers in the legal community.

 The dinner is the marquee event of the bar association and is also used to award scholarships to law students dedicated to public service in Michigan. The D. Augustus Straker Bar Foundation Law Student Scholarships are awarded annually to students who show a commitment to justice and equality and are in need of financial assistance.  

Since the first Trailblazers Dinner in 1999, dozens of law students have been awarded more than $60,000 in scholarships.

Past honorees have included Damon Keith, Dennis Archer Sr., Julian Cook, Anna Diggs Taylor, and former United States Attorney Saul A. Green.

Johnson was elected judge of the 46th District Court in November 2002. She is the first African American to serve as judge in the 46th District Court and the first African American female district court judge in Oakland County, Michigan. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan Law School.

Baggett-Hayes is the founder of The Law and Mediation Center, PLLC. She is a leader in the field of alternative dispute resolution in the state of Michigan and nationally. A graduate of Creighton University, and Creighton University Law School in Omaha, Nebraska, she also has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Mann is a trial attorney and partner at Bowman & Brooke in Bloomfield Hills and has a national practice in complex commercial and product liability defense. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he graduated from Wayne State University Law School with honors where he was a member of the Order of the Coif. 

Turner is a litigator, lobbyist and civic volunteer. He is a member of the Executive Committee of Clark Hill PLC in Detroit and a past president of the State Bar of Michigan. Turner was also President of the National Bar Association. He is listed in the “The Best Lawyers in America” and “SuperLawyers” and he is also a Fellow of the American Bar for Wayne State University and the University of Michigan Law School. 

The bar foundation and association were named after Straker, who was born in the West Indies but came to the United States to educate former slaves. He received his law degree from Howard University in 1871.

After working as a customs inspector in South Carolina, Straker was elected to that state’s legislature, and later became Dean of Law at Allen University. Straker then moved to Detroit to practice law and became the first African-American attorney to appear before the Michigan Supreme Court, successfully arguing that the state’s “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional.

He was later elected as Michigan’s first African-American jurist and in 1892 became a Wayne County Circuit Court Commissioner, serving two terms.

The bar association was formed in 1990 as a “proactive organization of diverse attorneys with a mission of promoting legal practice opportunities for minorities and women and to facilitate equal justice for all citizens,” according to its website. The Straker Bar Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to provide educational scholarships.

The association also sponsors other events including the Corporate Counsel Breakfast for minorities and women attorneys to interact with corporations, and programs to increase membership, mentor law school students, and provide financial resources to the community.

This year’s Platinum Sponsors are Bank of America, General Motors, and Meritor, Inc.

Individual tickets for the dinner are $75 per person.

The Townsend Hotel is located at 100 Townsend Street in Birmingham. 

For more information contact Rasul M. Raheem at 248-631-0322 or