Shores, Arthur Davis

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Arthur Davis Shores


Although Arthur Davis Shores began his career as an educator, it was his talent as a lawyer that skyrocketed him to fame. His significant achievements included his appointment as the first African American elected to the Birmingham, Alabama city council, providing legal assistance to Vivian Malone and James Hood in their efforts to integrate the University of Alabama, and numerous other cases during the civil rights movement and afterward.

Arthur Davis Shores was born September 25, 1904 (some sources say 1905) in Bessemer, Alabama to Richard H. and Pauline McGhee Shores. He grew up in Wenonah, Alabama (home of the Tennessee Coal and Oil Mining camp called Fossil). Shores graduated from Cameron Elementary and walked five miles each day to attend Industrial High (later Parker High) in Birmingham. Parker High was the only predominantly black school at that time. Shores attended Talladega College on a scholarship and graduated in 1927 with a bachelor of science degree. The University of Kansas awarded him a degree in 1934. In 1935 Shores graduated from Chicago's LaSalle Extension University with a law degree. He was awarded honorary degrees of doctor of law from Daniel Payne College in 1956 and Miles College in 1971 (both in Birmingham, Alabama). He received the honorary degree doctor of humane letters from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1975.

Shores taught at Dunbar High School from 1927 to and served as principal of the same school from to 1939. While at Dunbar, Shores studied nightly to become a lawyer. In 1937 Shores passed the bar, becoming the third black person of the twentieth century to be certified by the Alabama Bar Association. Shores began to practice three years later. Shores served as the only African American attorney until 1940 when Mahala Ashley Dickerson and Clarence Moses began their practices in Montgomery and Mobile.

In 1938 his first two cases involved voter registration and police brutality. Seven teachers filed complaints against the Jefferson County board of registrars. Like other prospective voters, these teachers had to name government agencies, members of Congress, and interpret parts of the Constitution. The case never went to trial because the registrars mailed the teachers their certificates.

Shores drew attention in 1940 when the Birmingham chapter of the NAACP asked him to prosecute a brutality case involving a white defendant and a black plaintiff. Shores was being paid only $50. He reported being bribed to give up the case, and the Ku Klux Klan threatened him if he continued with the case. Shores won the case in an appearance before the Jefferson County personnel board which gave the white officer a thirty day suspension. Shores won both cases (registration and brutality) since whites were fearful of an appeal.

Shores the Politician

Shores resigned from the NAACP in February 1952 to become involved in politics. If elected, Shores promised to alter the Right to Work Bill or abolish it altogether. He also promised to alleviate conditions that led to juvenile delinquency, increase public benefits and aid to hospitals, improve highways and education, push for compulsory inspection of automobiles at periodic intervals, and strengthen health laws to include compulsory testing for tuberculosis.


Born in Bessemer, Alabama on September 25
Graduates with B.S. from Talladega College in Alabama
Teaches at Dunbar High School in Bessemer, Alabama
Graduates with law degree from Chicago's LaSalle Extension University
Serves as principal at Dunbar High School in Bessemer, Alabama
Passes the Alabama Bar exam
Begins to practice law and prosecutes brutality case
Seeks state legislature seat
Assists James Hood and Vivian Malone in integrating the University of Alabama
Receives appointment to Birmingham City Council
Receives honorary LL.D. from Miles College
Dies in Birmingham, Alabama on December 15

During his efforts to acquire a legislative seat, Shores was also involved in community affairs. He was vice chairperson of the interracial committee of the coordinating council, trustee at the First Congregational Church, president of the Jones Valley Finance Company, chair of the Eighteenth Street branch of the YMCA board of management, member of the national legal committee of the NAACP, and a thirty-third degree Mason. He was also a member of the Shriners, Elks, and Knights of Pythias.

History-Making Events

In 1954 Shores worked with Thurgood Marshall to desegregate southern schools, the same year as the significant Brown v. Board of Education case. In 1952, Autherine Lucy applied to the University of Alabama. The University denied Lucy admittance. However, she persisted and won admission in 1955 after the session had begun. She came to the University of Alabama in 1956, a riot occurred, and she was dismissed a few days later because of something she said about the school's board of trustees. In 1963 two other students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, applied for admission and walked into history despite the decision by Governor George C. Wallace to stand in the doorway. Shores served as legal counsel and assisted Malone and Hood in this endeavor, paving the way for African Americans to attend and graduate from a previously predominantly white institution.

In 1963 someone bombed the Shores home on Center Street in Birmingham twice. No one was injured in the first bombings that were heard over ten miles away. In the second bombing, Shores' wife was hospitalized.

In 1968 Shores served on the credential committee at the Democratic National Convention. He was the first of his race to speak at a national political convention. His role in organizing the Alabama Progressive Democratic Conference paved the way for his participation at the Democratic Convention. He was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1968, 1972, and 1976 and served as a member of the Judicial Commission for the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals, the appointment of President Carter.

Shores achieved another milestone in December 1968. He was the first African American appointed to the previously all white Birmingham city council, filling the vacancy caused by the death of R.W. "Red" Douglass. The Birmingham News had recommended former mayor Albert Boutwell because of his experience in municipal affairs. Boutwell declined for personal reasons, and the Birmingham News considered Arthur Shores.

Many African Americans in Birmingham praised the appointment of Shores to the Birmingham city council. Among these were Clarence Wood of the Urban League; Rev. Calvin Woods, a vigorous civil rights advocate; Dr. John Nixon, former head of the Alabama NAACP; Jessie Lewis, publisher of the Birmingham Times; Rev. Edward Garner of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; and numerous other friends.

Civic and Religious Memberships

Shores' memberships in professional organizations included the American Bar Association, Alabama Bar Association, Birmingham Bar Association, and the United States Supreme Court Bar Association. General memberships included the Presidents Club of Alabama, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and Delta Phi Theta Legal Fraternity.

Religious affiliations included membership in the First Congregational Church where he served as a Sunday School teacher and moderator. He did extensive work on the Board of Homeland Ministries, United Church of Christ. He attended the International Conference on Religion, Art, and Architecture in Jerusalem in 1973.

After retiring from the council in 1977, Shores spent more time at his law firm. He directed the Holy Family Hospital and served as chair of the Birmingham Housing Authority, president of the Urban League, vice president and general counsel for Citizens Federal Savings and Loan Association, and a board member for the Salvation Army. He was also a board member for the A.G. Gaston Boys Club, National Council of Christians and Jews, and other organizations.

Shores was married to the former Theodora Helen Warren; together they had two daughters. Shores died December 15, 1996 in Birmingham, Alabama after a long illness.



Baily, Richard. "Arthur Davis Shores." In They Too Call Alabama Home: African American Profiles 1880–1999. Montgomery: Pyramid Publishing, Inc. 1999.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Black Firsts. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 2003.


Alabama Academy of Honor: Arthur Davis Shores. (Accessed 2 March 2006).

University of Alabama Libraries, Gorgas Library Portraits and Plaques. (Accessed 2 March 2006).

                              Prudence White Bryant