Margaret Bush Wilson

Margaret Bush Wilson

Margaret Bush Wilson (born 1919), is a former American activist. Margaret Bush Wilson has broken many barriers as an African-American woman throughout her professional career. Born in St. Louis at the end of World War I, Mrs. Wilson has witnessed amazing changes during her lifetime. Having managed successfully a St. Louis firm, now Wilson & Associates for over 40 years, she is fond of pointing out that she was born before passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

In the late 1930s, before Mrs. Wilson was persuaded to think about becoming a lawyer, her home state of Missouri did not allow blacks to attend its state-supported law schools. The state paid tuition stipends for residents of color to attend out-of-state schools, although African-American lawyers were allowed to practice law in Missouri once they had graduated and passed the bar. The state’s discrimination against blacks seeking a legal education was challenged by the NAACP in Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Missouri must allow Lloyd Gaines to attend the University of Missouri Law School or else provide “separate, but equal” law school facilities for him and other black students. Rather than integrate, Missouri created Lincoln University School of Law. Mrs. Wilson was in the second class which had one other woman enrolled. She passed the bar and was the second woman of color admitted to practice in Missouri.

In 1946, Mrs. Wilson’s father, James T. Bush, a real estate broker, was instrumental in helping the J.D. Shelley family buy a home. The family was later ordered out of the home when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the racial restrictive covenant governing the property was enforceable. As a young lawyer, Mrs. Wilson was counsel for the Real Estate Brokers Association which was formed at her father's initiative to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court held that such covenants were unenforceable in the courts.

In 1954, Mrs. Wilson celebrated with colleagues and friends when the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was handed down. The next year, her five-year-old son started kindergarten at one of the city’s first integrated schools.

Mrs. Wilson’s professional experience includes serving as U.S. Attorney for the Rural Electrification Administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. She is past Chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, having served nine terms in that office. She is past Board Chair of two historically African-American colleges, St. Augustine's College and Talladega, and has also served on numerous boards for national companies and nonprofit organizations. Currently a trustee-emeritae of Washington University in St. Louis and Webster University, Mrs. Wilson was Chair of Law Day 2000 for the American Bar Association.

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