It seems almost silly today that Attorney Patrise Perkins-Hooker did not think that she was even qualified to join the State Bar of Georgia’s finance committee.
But a colleague rebuked her strongly with kind and reaffirming words that spoke truth. “You have a J.D., an MBA and you’re a CPA,” Perkins-Hooker was told by Linda Klein, the first female to be elected president of the State Bar of Georgia. “You’re the most qualified person to be on the committee.”
And now, Perkins-Hooker is the most qualified person to become president of the State Bar of Georgia, the first African American to hold such a position since its inception in 1964, reports the Daily Report Online.
To add a delicious twist of serendipity, or perhaps confirmation that this moment was meant to be, Perkins-Hooker was sworn in as president at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort by Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham – the first African-American to hold his position.
“I’ve sworn in six state bar presidents,” Benham said. “Like the others, this one is important. It’s also historic.”
Perkins-Hooker’s election is historic indeed because she’s the first black to lord over the state’s mandatory bar since it was established in 1964. The professional feat is even more impressive when you add that the bar was voluntary for 131 years before that.
Perkins-Hooker is, simultaneously, the the third woman among 52 presidents since the founding of the mandatory bar.
“Today I stand before you witness to the fact that the leadership of the State Bar of Georgia is open to all lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia,” Perkins-Hooker told a packed ballroom. “I did not get here by myself.”
No she did not.
Klein, the fist female to be elected president, had to prod Perkins-Hooker, who had trepidations, to join the leadership 17 years ago. Klein has now gone on to become the president-elect of the American Bar Association, the most powerful organization of lawyers in the country.
The installation of Perkins-Hooker drew twice the number of attendees who usually appear at the annual soiree.
According to the Daily Reporter, Perkins-Hooker took pains to thank everyone who was part of her personal and professional journey. She also thanked her former employer and mentor, the esteemed retired Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington, the longtime president of Atlanta City Council. It was Harrington who helped nurture and harness Perkins-Hooker’s burgeoning talents during the embryonic stages of her career at his law firm. She said his tutelage imparted invaluable intangibles that she continues to live by today, including the example that “service is the rent you pay for occupying space on this earth.”
Because of that priceless beginning to her career in juris prudence, coupled with her work on every major committee on the State Bar of Georgia, Perkins-Hooker now feels insulated sufficiently with knowledge, experience and wisdom to take over as president.
“I’ve been groomed by the system. I feel prepared,” she said, adding. “I’ve been blessed by a village.” But she said it wasn’t just a village of color, and added she’d come of age at a time when “one village talked to another,” the Daily Reporter stated.