Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Everett J. Waring (1859-1914)
MSA SC 3520-1745

Biography:

Everett J. Waring was born on May 22, 1859 in Springfield, Ohio, the son of James S. Waring and Melinda C. Waring.  James Waring, a "leading educator, being principal of the colored schools of both Springfield and Columbus," was born c. 1828 in Virginia.  Melinda, ten years James' junior, was from Pennsylvania. According to family legend, James Waring was a descendant of Captain William Waring of Virginia and his wife, Lavinia, a former slave.  James Waring himself was a mulatto, and Melinda was white; accordingly, Everett was often described as "very light-colored."  Everett had one brother, Dr. C. C. Waring.  Dr. Waring lived in Washington D.C. during Everett's residence in Baltimore.1

Waring attended Columbus High School in Ohio. Upon his graduation in 1877, he began teaching in the public schools of Springfield and Columbus.  In 1878,
Waring succeeded his father as principal of the schools of Columbus, a position he held until the integration of schools in 1882 forced him to find another job.
Fortunately, Waring was able to secure an appointment to the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. later that year.  He worked as an examiner of pensions and began pursuing a law degree at Howard University, where graduated with honor in 1885.  Shortly thereafter, he gained admission to the bar in the District of Columbia, and practiced his profession there until he moved to Baltimore the following year.  Howard later awarded Waring a masters degree.  In 1897, Waring became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.2

The Reverend Harvey Johnson was a pastor at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore and the founder of the Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty, a group formed to advocate and facilitate fair treatment for African Americans.  The Brotherhood had been fighting Maryland's law restricting African Americans from practicing law in state courts, and needed a qualified African American lawyer to present to the Baltimore City Superior Court bar for admission.  Johnson wanted to fight the section of the 1864 Maryland constitution barring black lawyers from practicing in the state courts. This law had been challenged unsuccessfully several times since 1864 on the grounds that it violated the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.  A breakthrough came on March 19, 1885.  Sponsored by the Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty, a lawyer named Charles S. Wilson applied for admission to the bar of the Baltimore City Superior Court.  The court rendered an unprecedented, unanimous decision that "color alone would never bar a person from receiving justice within its limit and jurisdiction."  The judges decided that Wilson was not fully qualified for admission, but the way was clear for one who was:  Everett J. Waring.  Johnson rushed to Howard University to convince Waring to come to Baltimore and make history.  On October 10, 1885, Waring became the first African American lawyer admitted to the bar of the Supreme Bench in Baltimore, Maryland; the first in a Maryland court.  Several others followed immediately in his wake, and the flow has continued steadily to the present day.  Waring later applied to the Maryland State Court of Appeals in Annapolis, and was admitted on April 17, 1888.3

Waring was twenty-six when he moved to Baltimore.  He became a prominent civic leader in the black community during his twelve-year residence in the city.  He maintained a successful law practice and dealt in real estate.  He also established the Lexington Savings Bank, the first financial institution in Maryland founded and managed by African Americans.  It was in Baltimore, too, that he met his future wife, Katie E. Johnson.  She was "the daughter of a prominent barber," Harry H.
Johnson.  The couple was married by Reverend William H. Weaver on January 12, 1887.  Katie was described as "a petite little woman of prepossessing appearance;" she and Everett had four "bright-eyed little children."  Nothing is yet known about Waring's children, but some of his later descendants are known.  The Honorable Michael Waring Lee, Waring's great nephew, continued Waring's tradition of innovation by becoming the first African American appointed to a chief judgeship in Maryland.  Lee became Maryland's youngest judge at age thirty when he was named an Orphan's Court judge in 1983.  On November 19, 1984 Lee was named Chief Judge of the Baltimore City Court and was the first African American chosen to head the Orphan's Court.  Other Waring descendants have become attorneys, working for organizations such as Africare and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as for private law firms.4

Waring became a successful lawyer in Baltimore, representing the Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty on issues such as segregation on steamships and racial discrimination in insurance.  He also argued for the hiring of black schoolteachers, the desegregation of juries, and the eradication of lynching.  His law office was located at 217 Courtland Street, and he soon was "well known in Baltimore legal circles, where he had a lucrative practice among the colored population."  In 1887 Waring was admitted to the Maryland Court of Appeals in Annapolis.  His most celebrated case was his defense of Henry Jones, one of eighteen black men accused of murder in the Navassa Island riot of 1889.  The men had been working on the tiny, uninhabited island extracting guano deposits for the Quaker Company when a riot ensued and five of the eleven white officers present were murdered.  Eighteen men were extradited to the United States for trial.  Waring challenged the jurisdiction of the United States over the island, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that, because the island had been discovered by an American citizen, the U. S. courts indeed had jurisdiction. Jones was later found guilty of first degree murder.5

By 1890, Waring had made enough money from his "lucrative" law practice to purchase a house at 507 Mosher St. in Baltimore.  He and his family lived in this
house, a "commodious three-story brick dwelling . . . comfortably and neatly furnished," for seven years.  Waring's personal financial stability was precarious, however, because of his practice of buying real estate on credit.  At one time, he was known as to own as many as 40 houses in Baltimore, most of which were mortgaged.  In 1897, tax bills revealed that "over $10,000 worth of real and personal property" belonged to Waring.  When the Lexington Savings Bank failed in 1897, these companies took out numerous equity cases against Waring in Baltimore City Circuit Court because most of his mortgages were not yet paid off.  Unfortunately, none of Waring's wills or inventories have been found, so the state of his finances after leaving Baltimore is unknown.6

Waring's prominent career in Baltimore came to an unfortunate end in 1897.  On March 8, 1897, the Lexington Savings Bank went into receivership, and President Waring was nowhere to be found. Waring apparently had been conducting business at the bank on Saturday, March 6.  George L. Stanley, the bank's bookkeeper, suspected problems with the bank's affairs and called an emergency meeting of the bank's directors on Saturday night.  Waring informed the gentlemen that he would have a full report of the bank's finances available on Monday evening, the regular time for the weekly directors' meeting.  Waring then went home and told his wife that he was leaving for a short business trip to Washington, D.C.  He did not return to Baltimore until Friday, March 12, and his week-long absence caused a great deal of speculation about his motives for leaving.  While Waring was missing, the bank's receivers forced open the bank's safe because Waring was the only person who knew the combination.  They found only $28.72 in cash, and several promissory notes, including one in which Waring promised to pay himself $7,000.  Further investigation of the bank's books led the State's Attorney to charge Waring with embezzling $700 from the bank.

When Waring returned to Baltimore on March 12, he sent telegrams to the local newspapers to announce his arrival.  On March 18, The Baltimore Sun published an interview with Waring in which he explains the reasons for the bank's downfall and details the efforts he made to keep the bank afloat.  According to The Baltimore Morning Herald of March 19, the stress of his predicament had begun to take a physical toll on Waring," and he appeared to be a very sick man."  He told The Sun:  "I am almost crazy and I feel very much like taking my life. . . . I have been traveling around trying to loose myself or forget myself."  Because the directors and stockholders had taken "but little active part . . . in the management of the institution, . . . nearly all of the work fell upon the shoulders of Waring." Accordingly, all of the responsibility for the bank's collapse belonged to him as well.  Some of Waring's friends supported him during this time, noting that he "had struggled hard to maintain the bank and had used his private means to support it."  Others were concerned about the effect of the bank's demise on the African American community.  The Reverend P. H. A. Braxton, a stockholder, proclaimed that "the failure of the bank will be a great blow to the material interests of the colored people of Baltimore.  Its successful management would have demonstrated their ability to conduct business affairs and would have marked their progress.  I fear the contrary effect now, and it may be years before the community recovers from the effects of the failure."

Waring was tried for embezzlement in 1898.  The trial was moved from Baltimore City to Howard County because it feared that Waring would not receive a fair trial in Baltimore given the hostile attitudes against him due to the failure of the bank.  Sometime before the end of his trial, Waring moved from Baltimore back to his home state of Ohio, returning only to testify on his own behalf and witness the resolution of the case.  On April 9, 1898, The Ellicott City Times reported that Waring was acquitted of all charges against him.  Thus, the bank scandal came to an end, but not before the bank had been permanently closed, an unknown amount of money had been lost by depositors and Waring's reputation in the community was irreparably damaged.  He never returned to live in Baltimore.7

Notes on sources

Return to Everett J. Waring's Introductory Page


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