Warner T. McGuinn (1859-1937)
MSA SC 3520-2616
Warner T. McGuinn was born in Goochland County, near Richmond, Virginia
in November of 1859 to Jared and Fannie McGuinn. His brother the
A. McGuinn (b. 1852) was also born in Virginia and moved to Baltimore. A half-brother, the Rev. William M. Alexander (1852-1919), was pastor of Sharon
Baptist Church in Baltimore and the first editor of the Afro-American. McGuinn was educated in public schools in his native county, in Richmond, and in Baltimore. McGuinn graduated from Lincoln University in 1884, studied law at Howard (1884-5) and graduated from Yale Law in 1887. Noteworthy items from his Yale years include the presidency of the Law Club, a prize in oratory, and the commencement of a friendship with Mark Twain. The famous writer decided to finance the studies of the young McGuinn after meeting him and discovering that the student was working to pay his way through school.
McGuinn married Anna L. Wallace (1860-1920), also Virginia-born and
daughter of Harrietta (1840-1927) and William Wallace, in about 1892.
Alma was born in September 1895. The McGuinns lived at 1911 Division Street.
Before coming to Baltimore in 1891, McGuinn practiced law in Connecticut
and in Kansas City, Kansas. The Maryland bar admitted him in 1892.
in a law firm with Harry S. Cummings (1893-5), and later in his career with E. Everett Lane, son of George M. Lane. After the Republican surge to power in 1895, McGuinn was awarded the position of secretary of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners. In 1910, McGuinn collaborated with W. Ashbie Hawkins in the effort to overturn the West segregation ordinance of that year. McGuinn supported woman suffrage and viewed it as corollary to the Negro struggle for full voting rights. In 1911 he read an "exhaustive" paper on this topic to an assembly gathered at Bethel A.M.E. Church to inaugurate the Baltimore Historical and Literary Association. He reminded those present of the principle of the consent of the governed found in the Declaration of Independence and insisted that it followed that all adults irrespective of color or sex thereby had a right to participate in electing representatives.
In 1917 McGuinn was appointed to the Board of Managers of the Colored War Camp Commission Service. The same year he argued the celebrated "Baltimore segregation case." He was as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1920, and served two terms as a Republican on the Baltimore City Council, from 1919 to 1923 and again from 1927 to 1931. "I shall do my best in the City Council to fulfill every pledge that has been made during the campaign, especially as regards the health and school conditions of the race," he said. (The Baltimore Afro-American, May 9, 1919, p. 4) It appears that McGuinn achieved more than merely keeping campaign promises. He was supported for the office of Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia in 1926 but was not selected. The Sun in 1927 had this to say about his service: "No member has been more efficient or more earnest in endeavoring to promote public welfare than Warner T. McGuinn. . . He set an example of nonpartisanship in consideration of measures before the Council, and when he spoke upon them showed that he had taken pains to inform himself. His record deserves commendation." (reprinted in obituary, The Baltimore Sun, 11 July 1937)
In his old age, McGuinn looked askance at the younger generation of
attorneys. "Some of these fellows are so slick they can take salt out of
disturbing the covers. . . Once a lawyer's word was sufficient. Today few people will take his word unless he signs his name and puts up a bond. . . Unless entrance
examinations are changed so as to include character as well as knowledge, the practice of law will degenerate into a dog fight." (The Washington Afro-American, July 17, 1937.) McGuinn died in Philadelphia at his daughter Alma's house on July 10, 1937.
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