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 Marion Scudder Griffin

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Marion Scudder Griffin

Birth
Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia, USA
Death 30 Jan 1957 (aged 77)
Hardeman County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Plot Chapel Hill 715 1/2
Memorial ID 14781603 View Source
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Marion Scudder Griffin was born in either October 1875 or 1879 in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia to John Griffin and Anna L. Scudder. Little is known of her early life but she was obviously heavily influenced by her mother. Her mother, Aunt Margaret L. Scudder and Marion Griffin moved to Memphis Tennessee before 1900 where she became a stenographer for Judge Thomas M. Scruggs. She then moved to the University of Michigan and went to the law school and was one of two women who graduated in 1906. She then returned to Memphis and pursued a license to practice law which was denied twice by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 1906 she proclaimed she was "greeted by wisecracks and gaffaws," yet being a strong woman and advocate for the Women's Suffrage Movement, she managed to gain support from some men and many women. On February 13 1907 the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill, mainly due to "the unrelenting Marion Griffin" which was ratified and signed by Governor Malcom Patterson. Griffin became the first woman to practice law in Tennessee and would for more than forty years. In 1922, she was elected in Shelby County to become the first female to serve in the 63rd Tennessee General Assembly. She served one term and returned to the practice of law in Memphis. She was a strong advocate for women's rights her whole life and on March 17, 1949 she was honored to sit as Speaker of the House. This occurred during the administration of Governor Gordon Weaver Browning. After that time, she seems to disappear once again. On January 30 1957 she died in Hardeman County Tennessee and was laid to rest in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis Tennessee. So little seems to be known of the honorable Marion Griffin's life though she was among the first to seek change for women. She was a true champion for human rights and should never be forgotten.
Brent Cox
Governor Gordon Browning Museum

A RESOLUTION To honor Marion Scudder Griffin, the first female
admitted to practice law in the state of
Tennessee and the first woman to serve as a
member of the Tennessee General Assembly.
WHEREAS, It is fitting that the members of this General Assembly should salute those
valiant women of this state who through their extraordinary efforts have advanced the cause of
gender equality and who have paved the way for those who followed; and
WHEREAS, One such extraordinary and determined woman was Marion Scudder
Griffin, who despite being refused a Tennessee law license for seven years based solely upon
her gender, was not deterred from her goal, but went on to become a prominent Memphis
Attorney and then served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Tennessee
General Assembly in 1923-24; and
WHEREAS, A native of Georgia, born in 1879, Ms. Griffin had worked as a legal
stenographer in Memphis at a time when students of the law did not have to attend a law school
but could train under a licensed lawyer and be examined by judges; despite having met the
criteria of that era, she was twice turned away from the bar by the Tennessee Supreme Court
around the turn of the century because she was a woman; and
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WHEREAS, Marion Griffin's response was to enroll in the University of Michigan Law
School to complete her legal training, receiving her degree in 1906; she then successfully
lobbied the state legislature on behalf of a women's right to practice in the legal profession and
was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1907; and
WHEREAS, As an attorney, Ms. Griffin specialized in chancery and probate cases,
although she did save one murder defendant from execution by showing that he was mentally
disabled; she also opposed theater openings on Sundays, supported pensions for mothers and
physical education in schools, and opposed easy divorce; and
WHEREAS, The Association of Women Attorneys will unveil a Marion Griffin Historical
Marker in front of the First Tennessee Bank at the Southwest corner of Madison and Third in
Memphis on May 23, 2001; her office, in the old Goodwyn Institute Building, stood on the site;
and
WHEREAS, As to the significance of the marker, Frances Loring, a practicing attorney
and researcher of Ms. Griffin, said "… every woman lawyer in the state of Tennessee stands on
her shoulders… all citizens of Memphis do, whether they know it or not. She's one of the
heroines of the community and we should value her memory as we value the memory of any of
our progenitors."; and
WHEREAS, Marion Griffin epitomized the spirit and commitment that are characteristic
of a true Tennessean; the recognition of her valuable contributions forty-four years after her
death is clearly needed; and
WHEREAS, this General Assembly finds it appropriate to pause in its deliberations to
acknowledge and applaud the courage, determination and commitment to equality manifested
by the life of Marion Griffin; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED
SECOND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE
CONCURRING, That we hereby honor the life of Marion Scudder Griffin and her outstanding
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contributions to the cause of equality for women and reflect upon her courage and persistence
in advancing that goal.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we commend the Association of Women Attorneys
for their efforts to commemorate her life through the placement of the Marion Scudder Griffin
Historical Marker at the Southwest corner of Madison and Third in Memphis
Contributor: Governor Gordon Browning Museum (50169716)


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