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National Bar

About the National Bar Institute

In the struggle for social change and progress in the legal profession, the National Bar Institute (“NBI”) serves as a means to advance the understanding and practice of law amongst African-Americans and other minority groups. Founded in 1982 by members of the National Bar Association (“NBA”), the oldest and largest professional organization of lawyers and judges of color in the world, the NBI shares the same passion and commitment for advancing minorities in the legal profession by promoting research, education and study.

The NBI was established to facilitate the public's understanding of contemporary legal issues, to ensure quality legal educational opportunities for all Americans and to enhance the quality of legal services provided to people of color and the poor.

As a 501(c)(3) federal tax exempt non-profit organization, contributions to the NBI are tax-deductible. The NBI receives donations and contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. In fulfilling its mission, the NBI has established objectives that call for, supporting students and legal educational programs, and supporting important litigation that broadly impacts the public. It also aims to support initiatives that improve the administration of justice, promote high ethical standards for lawyers and judges, and support educational lectures, publications and scholarly writings.

“We seek support from the NBI to fund programs to enhance the pipeline of diverse students, and to enhance the public’s knowledge of the rich history and contribution of African-American lawyers to the profession and society", says Dr. Walter L. Sutton, Chair of the NBI and NBA Past President.

Since its founding in 1982, the NBI has established an endowment and implemented successful programs including awarding scholarships to college and law students. In addition, the NBI contributed to financial support for publication of the NBA Magazine commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) Frederick Douglas Moot Court Competition, the National Conference on African-American Women and the Law, and the Council for Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO).

The NBI awards its Law Student Fellowship to academically promising second-year law students with a proven commitment to social justice and an intention of practicing law in a historically under-served community. The fellowships range from $1,000 to $10,000. Former NBI Grants Committee Chair Freida L. Wheaton says, "We are proud to help influence the next generation of lawyers. The NBI is making a robust appeal to students attending law school at historically black colleges and universities." Grants Committee Chair Regina K. Dillard notes “Over the years, we’ve had outstanding students with impressive grade rankings and service to their communities apply and receive grants. We look forward to supporting more students each year.” For several years, State Farm has provided funding for the program. 

In 1994, under the leadership of NBI Chair Ernestine Sapp, the NBI launched the Jacob Lawrence Art Project working with renowned artist Jacob Lawrence. Lawrence produced "Lawyers and Clients", a limited edition work that continues to generate proceeds from the sale of serigraphs, prints, posters and note cards. Since Lawrence's death in 2000, his art, including “Lawyers and Clients”, has increased significantly in value. Currently the NBA is offering items for sale.

The NBI has benefited from numerous funding campaigns. The most ambitious is Endowment 2000, launched by NBA Past President H.T. Smith, with a goal to raise one million dollars ($1,000,000). The NBI has also received donations from book sales by authors such as Fred D. Gray, Sr., former NBI Chair and NBA Past President. Gray donated receipts from the sale of his book "Bus Ride to Justice."

One of the NBI's largest supporters is Walmart, which sponsors programs such as the NBA Crump Law Camp and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition for high school seniors, who have been accepted for admission by a college or university. The Crump Law Camp is a hallmark achievement of the NBA and NBI.  In 2003, the Crump Law Camp received the American Bar Association Partnership Award for its diversity efforts. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition provides grants for regional high school seniors and their chaperones to attend the NBA convention to participate in the National Competition. A distinguished panel of lawyers and judges reviews the written essays and listens to the oral arguments on selected contemporary law topics. Each participant receives a $500 scholarship and the first, second and third place winners receive scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.

The NBI Clyde E. Bailey, Sr. and Rapheal M. Prevot, Jr. Annual Golf Tournament is a successful fundraiser which annually recognizes competitive golfers’ achievements. The NBI Golf Tournament has been sponsored by such notable corporations such as FedEx and Walmart. Through its Youth Golf Clinic, the NBI offers up to 30 local girls and boys the unique opportunity to socialize on the golf course with lawyers and judges. They also receive personalized instruction from golf professionals such as Leonard Jones and Calvin Peete. The tournament is held during the National Bar Annual Convention. 


Dr. Walter L. Sutton, Jr.
Dallas, TX

Regina K. Dillard
Vice Chair
Washington, DC

Sonya D. Hoskins
Dallas, TX 

Frank Seales, Jr.
Washington, DC

Lonita Baker
National Bar Association
Chicago, IL

Wiley Adams
Chicago, IL 

Stephanie D. Jones
Detroit, MI 

Debra D. Matlock
Chicago, IL 

Daryl D. Parks
Tallahassee, FL

Alfreda Robinson
Washington, DC

Belinda D. Stith
Los Angeles, CA

Reginald M. Turner
Detroit, MI

Vickie E. Turner
San Diego, CA


The Law Student Fellowship Program was developed to assist law students who are completing professional juris doctor degrees. This is a field where African-American student participation has traditionally been low. The NBI awards law student fellowships annually to qualified students. To be eligible, a law student must have been, among other things, carrying a full-time class load at a U.S. law school; be a U.S. citizen; have at least two consecutive years of full-time law student experience; and intend to practice law in a historically underserved community once legal training is completed. Fellowships range from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the availability of funds. The application period opens February 1st each year. The deadline for receiving applications is May 15th each year. Notification letters will be sent by August 31st of each year.

To apply for a Law Student Fellowship grant, use the following application form and instructions or contact [email protected].

Fellowship Application  


General Grants

All grant program proposals must come within the purpose of the NBI, and must fit within established objectives to receive consideration for funding. Funding consideration will be given to applications in substantial compliance with the requirements on the grant application form. An applicant whose proposal is approved and funded (a "Grantee") must agree to the following terms of acceptance:

  • No part of any funds may be used to lobby or otherwise attempt to influence the outcome of any specific public election or participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office; nor for any non-charitable purpose
  • Funding will be made with the expectation that the application will obtain additional funding from other sources, if applicable.  Disbursement of funds will be tailored o the particular grant proposal
  • Grantee must maintain records of the funded program or project and provide periodic status reports and a final report

To apply for a General Grant, use the following application form and instructions or

[email protected]

Grant application


The NBI will consider requests for support for litigation to advance the cause of civil rights, human rights, and economic empowerment.


NBA Hall of Fame Luncheon

The Gertrude E. Rush Award Dinner

NBA Convention Awards Banquet


The NBI will serve as the recipient organization on behalf of NBA Subdivisions, upon proper request and documentation that meets the requirements of the NBI Grants Program, General Grants, Fellowships, Educational and Professional Development. This will enable Subdivisions to request funding from other sources and extend tax deduction opportunities to their donors.

Get in Touch

National Bar Association
1816 12th St. NW 4th Floor
Washington DC. 20009
Hours: 9am - 5pm ET

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T: (202) 842-3900
F: (202) 842-3901
E: [email protected]
E: [email protected]