Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Robert P. McGuinn (1898-1950)
MSA SC 3520-13701


Born August 14, 1898 in Baltimore City, Maryland.  Son of Rev. Robert Alexander McGuinn and Nannie Servant McGuinn.  Attended Whittier School, Hampton, Virginia; Voorhies Industrial School, Denmark, South Carolina; Virginia Union University; graduate of New York Law School.  Admitted to the Maryland bar, April 4, 1927 (click here to view test book entry).  Married first wife Willie Mae (Thomas) McGuinn (divorced 1935); children Ruth (or Willie May) and Roberta Alexandra.  Married second wife Pauline (Wharton) McGuinn, a teacher, in 1935.  Resided at 1532 and later at 2030 McCulloh Street, Baltimore.  Died April 15, 1950 of stomach cancer.  Buried at Arbutus Memorial Park, Baltimore County, Maryland.

Robert P. McGuinn served in World War I.  After the war he attended law school and became a civil rights lawyer in private practice with other African-Americans at 4 E. Redwood Street and later at 22 St. Paul Street, Baltimore. His law partners were Josiah F. Henry, Jr. and W. A. C. Hughes, Jr.  He was the executive secretary of the Governor's Commission on Higher Education of Negroes in the early to mid-1930s.  He served as president and was a member of the Monumental City Bar Association of Baltimore.  He was also counsel for Carpenters' Union Local No. 544 and for the Colored Republican Voters League of Maryland.  A member of the steering committee of the Republican Party, he spoke at the Republican Party convention that nominated Governor Harry W. Nice for President of the United States.  He also taught sociology for a time in the junior college at Douglass High School in Baltimore City in the 1930s.  He was a member of the Enon Baptist Church, the Monumental Golf Club, and the Omega Fraternity.

In 1935, McGuinn became involved in an effort by NAACP president Lillie Carroll Jackson and Afro-American editor Carl Murphy to have a black high school built in Baltimore County, which at the time had none.  The nearest high school for black high school students living in Baltimore County was Douglass High School in Baltimore City, and Jackson and Murphy decided to file suit against the Baltimore County school board.  Murphy provided the financing necessary for McGuinn to pair with Thurgood Marshall in order to conduct a comparative study of white and black schools in the county.  The results of the study were published in the Baltimore Afro-American for February 22, 1936 and formed the basis of a lawsuit filed by Marshall to have thirteen-year-old black student Margaret Williams admitted to the all-white Catonsville High School.  Marshall lost the case because the judge based his decision on the fact that Margaret had failed to qualify for admission to Douglass High.  Nevertheless, McGuinn's study served to publicize the abysmal conditions of black elementary schools in Baltimore County in the mid-1930s.

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