Imagine your father was a former slave and your mother a free woman, you had six siblings, and you were born in Kentucky, 1889. Your mom died when you were 14 years old, and then you moved to Missouri. This is the start of the life of Dr. John Morton-Finney.
In 1911, at 22 years of age he joined the US Army. He served for three years in the Philippines in a black regiment whose members were known as “Buffalo soldiers.” Returning to the United States in 1914, he studied at Lincoln College in Missouri, where he met his wife, who was a French teacher there. In 1918, he served in France during World War I.
Due to racism and discrimination, even though he earned the rank of corporal and sergeant, he was denied officer status. Dr. John Morton-Finney married Pauline Angeline Ray, and in 1922, they moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. They later had one daughter, Gloria Ann Morton-Finney.
Dr. John Morton-Finney earned eleven academic degrees, five of those in law. His first degree was in 1935, and the last degree was from Butler University in 1965.
Notable highlights to his career:
1935: Admitted as a member of the Bar of the Indiana Supreme Court
1941: Admitted as a member of the Bar of the US District Court
1972: Admitted to practice before the US Supreme Court
1991: Inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame
1996 (he was 107): Retired from practicing law, believed to have been the oldest practicing attorney in the US
Before he died in 1998 at the age of 108, he had learned to speak six languages, served as one of the inaugural faculty members at Crispus Attucks High School, taught for 47 years in the Indianapolis Public Schools, received five law degrees, and was hailed as the oldest practicing attorney in the United States.
He was born on June 25, 1889, and passed away on January 28, 1998, at 108 years old. His grave is in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, where his wife and daughter are also buried.
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