George W. Malone: New Mexico’s first African American attorney

George W. Malone

The following was authored by Janice Dunnahoo at the Roswell Daily Record

Special to the Roswell Daily Record

In honor of Black History Month, we are highlighting and recognizing notable African-American citizens who trailblazed a part of both their own history and our history here in the Southwest, as well as southeastern New Mexico.

Today, we are highlighting George W. Malone, who was the first black lawyer in New Mexico and lived in Blackdom, a small community south of Roswell, and Roswell during part of his life.

In the absence of first-hand or family stories, we can only present this in a sort of timeline form, gathered from documents found by those of us who researched Malone and his life and times.

Credits should go to Linda Osborn of Las Cruces, who began the search for the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association. Her research took her from Mississippi, where her information there would not have been possible without the work of Judy Flowers of Coahoma County, Mississippi.

Linda and her husband traveled to our archives here at the Historical Society for Southeastern New Mexico in Roswell last March to research Malone’s life and times while he lived in this area.

The Blackdom school and church where George W. Malone taught (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico).

This is where I was privileged to join in the search of Malone’s legacy by helping Linda with researching his days here in Blackdom and Roswell. Linda then followed him to Albuquerque and his time spent there, to his final days in Kansas City, Kansas, where he died and is buried beside his third wife.

— Janice Dunnahoo

A letter submitted by Roswell attorney Harold Hurd to the Honorable Jose D. Sena in support of Malone’s admission to the New Mexico bar.
Malone’s signature (third from top) on the Supreme Court Roll of Attorneys showing his residence as Blackdom along with the date he signed, Aug. 8, 1916. (Images courtesy of New Mexico Black Lawyers Association).

George W. Malone was born in the year 1875 in Chaqueta Chau, Alabama. By the year 1880, he had moved with his family and was living in Sharkey County, Mississippi.

In 1892, Malone and his mother (Clancy Malone) each made a $50 payment on a tract of land and had two promissory notes due in 1893 and 1894.

On April 12, 1896, Malone married Betty Bessie Gilmore in Friars Point, First District, Coahoma County, Mississippi. By the year 1900, the Coahoma County census shows George and Bessie having two sons, George (age 2) and Moses (age 1.) Malone’s mother, who was living with them, was a widow at this time.

In that same year, 1900, Malone, with much effort, obtained his law degree from Walden University in Tennessee.

On Nov. 21, 1903, Malone and a man by the last name of White paid $75 for property to house the Masonic Lodge there in Mississippi. On Feb. 25, 1905, Malone bought Lot 7, Block B, in the town of Coahoma for $150. On June 29, 1905, Malone borrowed from the Exchange Bank, in Friars Point, Mississippi, and the security was Block B, Lot 7, in Coahoma County, Mississippi. On July 25, 1905, Malone sold Lot 6, Block A, in Coahoma County, Mississippi, for $100.

On Oct. 4, 1909, Malone petitioned the court for admittance to the bar in Mississippi. Permission was denied, so it was suggested that he study for six more months and retake the exam. In 1910, he retook the law exam and was admitted to the bar in Bolivar County, Mississippi.

At some point, there was a fire in the Friars Point, Coahoma County, Mississippi, courthouse and many of the records were destroyed. This is all the records that could be found showing that Malone did practice law in Mississippi. Most of his practice was wills and probate cases.

By 1915 or ‘16, George and Bessie were in New Mexico moving to a community by the name of Blackdom, which was a farming community that was created and inhabited by African-Americans moving west in those days. Malone was a schoolteacher in Blackdom while he was awaiting admittance to the New Mexico Bar Association. Bessie Malone became the postmistress at the Blackdom Post Office.

In April 1916, Malone applied to the state of New Mexico Lawyers Association for admittance to practice law, and in December 1916 he was awarded a license to practice law in New Mexico.

By 1917, Malone sold his land and holdings in Mississippi. Then in 1919, his mother, Clancy, passed away (probably in New Mexico). Malone’s brother, Seymour, deeded his mother’s land grant to him.

On Sept. 13, 1919, Malone bought land in Roswell from R.E. and Florence Morris. He likely lived at the house at 212 Bland St., which is still standing.

Malone’s wife, Bessie, died in December 1920. She is buried in South Park Cemetery in Roswell. By 1922, Malone had remarried a woman named Daisy, and the next year they moved to Albuquerque.

The 1923 Albuquerque City Directory has Malone listed as a real-estate attorney, office at 316 N. Third St., and his residence at 1206 N. 12th St. In 1924, he was listed as living at his residence 511 N. Third St., but no spouse was listed.

We next find Malone speaking at the AME church at the corner of Greeley and Third Street in Kansas City, Kansas.

By 1927, Malone had married his third wife, Lou, and was living in Kansas City, Kansas. The home is listed at 341 Waverly Ave.

From 1936 to 1940, Malone was listed as being a teacher in Kansas City. He apparently taught school for some time and ran a boarding house with his third wife, Lou.

Malone died in 1945, and is buried at Westlawn Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas. His third wife, Lou, continued living in the family home until her death in 1951. She is buried next to her husband in Westlawn Cemetery.

Malone made his mark in history as a teacher, a preacher and the first African-American lawyer in the state of New Mexico. From humble beginnings in the Deep South, Malone persevered, buying real estate and educating himself at a time when many blacks could not even attend school, let alone obtain a law degree.

The New Mexico Black Lawyers Association awards a scholarship each year in the honor of George W. Malone to underprivileged law students. His memory and faith and perseverance lives on to help others.

Janice Dunnahoo is a volunteer archivist at the Historical Society for Southeastern New Mexico.

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