Margaret Bush Wilson
|Margaret Bush Wilson|
January 30, 1919|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died||August 11, 2009(aged 90)|
|Parents||James T. Bush|
Margaret Bush Wilson (January 30, 1919 – August 11, 2009) was an American activist. Wilson broke many barriers as an African-American woman throughout her professional career. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she successfully managed a St. Louis law firm for over 40 years.
In the late 1930s, before 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 of Missouri School of Law. 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, 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 Supreme Court ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer that such covenants were unenforceable in the courts.
In 1954, 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.
Wilson’s professional experience included serving as United States Attorney for the Rural Electrification Administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. She was Chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, having served nine terms in that office. She was Board Chair of two historically African-American colleges, St. Augustine's College and Talladega, and also served on numerous boards for national companies and nonprofit organizations. She was also a trustee-emeritae of Washington University in St. Louis and Webster University, Wilson was Chair of Law Day 2000 for the American Bar Association.