The Memphis Bar Association named Tannera George Gibson as president at its annual meeting earlier this month. A partner at Memphis law firm Burch Porter & Johnson, Gibson is setting a precedent as the first black woman president. She succeeds Peter Gee Jr., who served as the organization’s first Asian-American president.
Also the first Black female partner in the Burch, Porter & Johnson firm, Gibson started her first speech as Bar Association president by citing a letter that the firm’s late partner, Lucius Burch, whose 1963 letter to the members of the association advocated for removing the adjective “white” from the qualifications for membership.
He wrote, “We cannot expect to preserve the (favored) image (of lawyers) or deserve it to be preserved if we inhibit human liberty rather than advance it.”
“It was a bit jarring, to be honest, that no one who looks like me has ever held this position in 147 years,” Gibson said while looking at a wall showing the association’s past presidents.
“It’s equally impactful to receive the gavel from Peter Gee,” Gibson said while addressing her predecessor Gee. “No one looked like you, either. It occurred to me that this moment encompasses all of the descriptors (Burch) mentioned in that letter.”
Looking at the association’s photos of past presidents, Gibson said: “It was a bit jarring, to be honest, that no one who looks like me has ever held this position in 147 years.”
While the local bar has had two Black male presidents, Gibson is the first Black female president.
“It’s equally impactful to receive the gavel from Peter Gee,” she said, addressing her predecessor. “No one looked like you, either.”
Gibson said she thought a lot about what meaning to take from the Memphis Bar Association being led for the first time by an Asian American and by a Black female. “It occurred to me that this moment encompasses all of the descriptors (Burch) mentioned in that letter,” Gibson said.
Diverse leadership brings diverse experiences and diverse perspectives to the association, she said.