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Keith McCord ReportingTomorrow night is a special recognition for a group of Utah lawyers and judges. The Utah Minority Bar Association will honor the state's first 50 minority attorneys. Members of this group are considered "pioneers" of their profession.
Consider this, the first minority lawyer was admitted to the Utah Bar in 1909, but it took more than 70-years to reach 50 lawyers in the state. And those 50 will be recognized for their contribution to their field, and the sacrifices they made to get there!
Judge William Thorne is the first Native American to serve on the Utah Court of Appeals. His law career spans 28-years.
William Thorne, Utah Court of Appeals: "For the first few years of my practice I had a full head of hair and a ponytail down to the middle of my back."
Things have certainly changed since he graduated from Stanford Law School in the 70's. He's been with the appeals court for five years and rendered opinions at the district and circuit court levels before that.
While he appreciates being in a select group of 50, he says he owes a lot to those who came before him.
William Thorne: "I was lucky enough to come along at a time when people were willing to help and encourage you. I can't imagine what it was like to be the very first or the first handful, because they didn't have that group of people who were willing to say, we did it, you can do it!"
Attorney Robert Archuleta graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 1974. With Civil Rights and Affirmative Action issues in full swing then, he certainly felt the pressure.
Robery Archuleta, Criminal Defense Attorney: "I got in on my merits, but there was so much hostility out there. I got in because I was brown; I didn't deserve to be there."
But he never quit, and went on to start his own business. And 25-years later he's still making a difference in people's lives and changing perceptions that minorities cannot succeed.
Robery Archuleta: "So I think I was sort of a role model because I had an opportunity to change perceptions, and I realized they only way I could do that, I had to take the highest road I could take and that was to consistently pursue excellence and develop my mind."
Of the people we spoke with about this story, all said the legal system is improved because of the diversity lifestyles and cultures of those who are in the profession.
Tomorrow night's ceremony is a chance to say thanks these legal trailblazers.