PRESERVING
OUR LOCAL
LEGACY

An Association of Attorneys within the
African Diaspora in Sacramento County

Our History

The Wiley Manuel Bar Association of Sacramento County, formerly known as the Sacramento Association of Black Attorneys, (SABA), was founded in the fall of 1977, through the initial efforts of four attorneys in the Sacramento area, David Seals, Milton Armistead, Nathaniel Colley and Joseph Russell. These four attorneys saw a need for a bar association which would address the concerns of the Black community as well as the Black lawyers in the Sacramento area and along with thirteen others, held the first meeting of SABA. The seventeen individuals in attendance were: David Seals (President), Milton Armistead (Vice President), Harold Machen (Parliamentarian), Otis Benning, Clarence Brown, Timothy Chandler, Nathaniel Colley, Randolph Cooke, Joseph Cooper, Amos Freeman, L’Archie Harris, James Long, Gary Ransom, Vance Raye, Joseph Russell, Renard Shepard, and Herman Smith.

The stated purpose of the organization was “to provide an organized bar affiliation to represent the professional interests of the legal community in Sacramento, with special emphasis on Black attorneys; to promote the administration of justice; and to make use of legal tools and Legal discipline for the advancement of the economic, political, educational, and social interest of Sacramento, especially the Black community.”

In 1981, after the untimely death that year of Justice Wiley William Manuel, the first African American appointed to the California Supreme Court, the SABA changed its name to the Wiley Manuel Law Society. Justice Manuel was a distinguished leader in the legal field in the never-ending battle for equality and justice for all people, regardless of race, creed or national origin. It was this leadership that prompted the association to change its name in his honor. The next year, the Society affiliated with the State Bar of California and became the Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association of Sacramento County. In 1984, Wiley Manual Bar Association (WMBA) became affiliated with the Sacramento County Bar Association. It also maintains affiliate status with the National Bar Association and was founding affiliate association to the California Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), which was also established in 1977, WMBA and its members continue to be a vital part of the Sacramento legal community.

Wiley William Manuel was the first African-American to be appointed as a justice to the California Supreme Court.

Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. appointed Wiley Manuel to the California Supreme Court on February 12, 1977. On November 7, 1978, Justice Manuel was elected to a twelve-year term on the California Supreme Court.

Justice Manuel received his Bachelor of Law degree from Hastings College of Law in 1953. Prior to his appointment to the California Supreme Court, he enjoyed a 23-year career with the California Department of Justice as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Assistant Attorney General in the San Francisco office.

Justice Manuel’s twelve-year term would have expired in 1990. However, on January 5, 1981, he succumbed to a strenuous battle with cancer.

Justice Manuel’s legal career and his personal life were marked by dedication to hard work, public service and concept of equal justice for all segments of society.

In addition to the Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association of Sacramento County, there is also a non-profit scholarship foundation in Northern California, and an Oakland courthouse named in his honor.

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