Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, Ohio

The Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (BLAC) invites eligible law students to apply for scholarship(s). We anticipate that the Theodore M. Berry Scholarship, the William A. McClain Scholarship, and the Jack Sherman, Jr. Scholarship will each be equal to or greater than $2,000.00. The Shanda L. Spurlock Memorial Scholarship will be $5,000. The selection of recipients will be made by the BLAC Scholarship Committee.

The selected recipients will be recognized and presented with their scholarships at BLAC’s Annual Scholarship and Awards Banquet. Each recipient will be asked to submit an appropriate photograph and biography for publication in our program booklet soon after the selection.

In addition to awarding four law student scholarships, we will present our distinguished service award and introduce graduating students from our two area law schools to the greater Cincinnati legal community. The black tie optional affair will be held in the spring (date to be determined). It is normally held on a Saturday beginning at 6:30 p.m. with a reception, followed by a 7:30 p.m. dinner program, but the times may vary year to year. Approximately 400 lawyers, judges, law students, and friends attend our banquet each year.

See our Answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Download our Scholarship Application.

The Scholarships

The Theodore M. Berry Scholarship

Theodore Berry

Born on November 8, 1905, in Maysville, Kentucky, the Honorable Theodore M. Berry was one of Cincinnati's elder political leaders when he passed away on October 15, 2000. He accomplished many "firsts" throughout his life. For example, he was the First African-American Valedictorian, Woodward High School, Cincinnati, Ohio (1924); First African-American Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Hamilton County (1939-42); First President of the Community Action Commission (1964); and First Black Mayor, City of Cincinnati (1972-75). He received both his Bachelor of Arts degree (1928) and Juris Doctor degree (1931) from the University of Cincinnati. In 1932, Berry was admitted to the Ohio State Bar. The Cincinnati Bar Association honored him with its Trustees Award for outstanding service to the general public and the legal profession in 1993. Berry was active in the political arena, serving on Cincinnati City Council for more than 13 years. From 1945-69, he was a member of the National Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also president of its local chapter, 1932-38, and 1945-46. In February of 2000, he was recognized at Applause! Magazine's 10th Anniversary Imagemaker Awards as the Person of the Century. Theodore Berry married Johnnie Mae Newton in 1938 and they had three children: Faith Daryl Berry, Ph.D.; Gail Berry West, J.D.; and the Hon. Theodore Newton Berry (Hamilton County Municipal Court). In recognition of Theodore M. Berry's political, civic, and legal achievements, the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati established the scholarship to be awarded annually to a deserving Black law student attending the University of Cincinnati who has demonstrated strong leadership qualities and a commitment to his or her community.

The William A. McClain Scholarship

William A. McClain

The Honorable William A. McClain was born on January 11, 1913 in Sanford, North Carolina. He attended Wittenberg University (Springfield, Ohio), graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934. In 1937, McClain received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School. He has been a member of the Bar of Ohio for more than 70 years. In 1951, after being denied membership twice, McClain became the first Black member of the Cincinnati Bar Association. He later became the City Solicitor of Cincinnati (1963-72) making him the first Black attorney to serve as City Solicitor of any major city in the country. During his years as an attorney, he has been a member of the law firm of Keating, Muething & Klekamp (1972-73); he was the first Black judge of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court; he served as judge of the Municipal Court of Hamilton County and as Civil Trial Referee of the same Court. For more than twenty years, he was Of Counsel with the law firm of Manley Burke (1980-2003). McClain served as the Director of Legal Services for the Village of Lincoln Heights (1980-87, and 1994-2003). On May 4, 1997, he was awarded the highly coveted Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The award was created in 1986 to honor the many ancestral groups who through struggle, sacrifice, and success helped build our great nation. McClain continues to be honored for his accomplishments and contributions. The Mallory Center for Community Development bestowed upon him its History Maker Award on February 24, 2001. In 2003, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce recognized McClain as "A Great Living Cincinnatian." The crowning moment of his life came on October 23, 2004 when Wittenberg University dedicated "The William A. McClain Culture House" in honor of his life and career as the only Black graduate in the Class of 1934. On October 21, 2010, Judge McClain was presented with the Cincinnati Bar Foundation's John L. Muething Lifetime Achievement in Law Award. He is a member of numerous organizations, including, but not limited to, the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (BLAC), the Cincinnati Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the National Bar Association, and the American Bar Association. He is a Life Member of the Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a member of the American Judicature Society the Cincinnati Bar Foundation and the Lawyers Club of Cincinnati. McClain became the first Black member of the Lawyers Club in 1947, after a heated debate over his admission. On September 22, 1994, he was recognized for this and other accomplishments at a joint meeting of the Lawyers Club of Cincinnati and BLAC. McClain and his wife, Roberta (White) McClain (1914-2011), were very pleased to hear the announcement of the scholarship in McClain's name, initiated by the donation of the law firm of Keating, Muething & Klekamp. This scholarship is awarded to a Black law student and Hamilton County, Ohio resident attending any accredited law school who has demonstrated leadership potential, dedication to the Cincinnati community, and financial need. The Cincinnati Bar Foundation and BLAC fund this scholarship jointly.

The Jack Sherman, Jr. Scholarship

Jack Sherman, Jr.

A native of Cincinnati, the Honorable Jack Sherman, Jr. majored in education while attending The Ohio State University, and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1961.  Sherman taught biology and general science at a Cincinnati public junior high school from 1962 to 1965.  He attended The Salmon P. Chase College of Law (Chase) in the evenings and earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1969.  He held various positions while in law school including serving as constable to Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John W. Keefe.  Living by the motto that "lawyers are agents of positive societal change," Sherman dedicated his career to public service.  From 1969 to 1970, he served as an Assistant Prosecutor for the City of Cincinnati, and from 1970 to 1971 he was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio.  He served as Director of the Model Cities Law Office, a public defender office from 1972 to 1974.  Sherman joined the faculty of Chase in 1974, where he taught constitutional and criminal law until his appointment to the Hamilton County Municipal Court in 1981.  In 1983, he was elected to that Court, and four years later, he was appointed to the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, where he served for two years.  In 1989, Sherman was appointed to the position of United States Magistrate Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  After fourteen years on the federal bench, he retired on April 4, 2003.  Judge Sherman's professional memberships include the Federal Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cincinnati Bar Association, and the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (Life Member).  In addition, he served as the president of the Federal Bar Association John W. Peck Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Chapter from 2000 to 2001.  During his legal career, Sherman served as the President of the Cincinnati Bar Association (CBA) (1994-95), and was a champion for diversity.  He is former co-chairperson of the CBA's Diversity Committee, and was active with the Food for Thought and Lawyer-to-Lawyer programs.  His commitment to diversity carries over into his other volunteer activities.  Sherman is a member of and Secretary for the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and is the Chairperson of its Diversity Committee.  He is also a member of the BLAC-CBA Round Table, which has a goal of fully integrating minorities into the legal profession.  His commitment to improving the profession is unwavering, demonstrated by assisting newer attorneys and reminding us of the various reasons why diversifying the profession is the right thing to do.  Announced during our 2003 banquet, this scholarship was established by the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati and Federal Bar Association, John W. Peck Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Chapter. It was first awarded in 2004, and it is presented to a deserving minority law student attending the Salmon P. Chase College of Law who is interested in public service and who embodies inclusiveness and a sense of justice.

The Shanda L. Spurlock Memorial Scholarship


Shanda L. Spurlock was an Associate in the Litigation Department at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP from 2011 to 2013. She graduated from Princeton High School and Olivet Nazarene University where she was a four-time NAIA national indoor and outdoor track and field champion in the 60 and 100-meter hurdles. She was inducted into the Olivet Nazarene Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009. She earned a J.D. from the University of Dayton School of Law. She was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the United States District Court (Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio and the Eastern District of Kentucky). She worked at Peck Shaffer & Williams as an intern in the Summer Work Experience in Law (SWEL) program in 1997 and later as a law clerk in 2000. In 2009 and 2010, Shanda was selected as an Ohio Super Lawyers-Rising Star and in 2011, Shanda was selected as a Rising Star by the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Academy of Career Women of Achievement. Shanda was active in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities and served on several boards including the Taft Museum of Art (Board of Directors and Duncanson Society Executive Committee); Children's Law Center (Board of Directors); Summer Work Experience in Law, Inc. (Board of Directors); and the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Board of Directors). She was also appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and served on the executive committee of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (BLAC). Shanda passed away on Monday, February 24, 2014 after a long battle with breast cancer. In 2015, this scholarship was established by Dinsmore & Shohl, and at the request of Dinsmore & Shohl, BLAC selected the first scholarship recipient. The scholarship is awarded to a Black student attending either the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University, or University of Dayton law school, who has demonstrated leadership potential and dedication to the community.