San Francisco Not long out of law school, Dennis Archer went to his first meeting of the American Bar Assn. in San Francisco in 1972. He was one of just two black lawyers there, and among only a small number who were members of the lawyers' group that once excluded blacks.
Meeting in the same city Monday, the ABA will make Archer its first black president since its founding more than 125 years ago.
"I think the American Bar Association is demonstrating for all to see a real commitment and respect for diversity, given its historical background," said Archer, a former mayor of Detroit.
At the same time Archer becomes president for a one-year term, black Richmond, Va., lawyer Robert Grey Jr. is expected to win election as the group's president in waiting. Grey would take over as president in 2004.
Archer, a native of Cassopolis, Mich., grew up in a home with no indoor plumbing and took weekly baths in a metal tub. His father had a third-grade education and couldn't find good work after he lost an arm in a car accident. Archer started working at age 8, doing odd jobs such as setting up bowling pins and caddying.
He taught disabled children until a fellow teacher, who later became his wife, recommended he go to law school. His political career started with an appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court. He served five years, then ran for mayor of Detroit in 1993 and was elected to the first of two terms.