Wendell P. Dabney      

Guide to African American Resources
at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives




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Cincinnati History
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Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal










William A. McClain
William Andrew McClain was born on January 11, 1913, the son of Frank and Blanche McClain. A 1930 graduate of Springfield High School in Springfield, Ohio, he earned his A.B. degree at Wittenberg University in 1934 and his J.D. degree from the University of Michigan in 1937. McClain received L.L.D. degrees from Wilberforce University and the University of Cincinnati in 1963 and 1971, respectively. Probably best known as Cincinnati's City Solicitor (March 1963-June 1972), he was the first black in the United States to achieve such a high municipal legal post. He continued his legal career both in private practice, as a lecturer, and as a judge, first in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas (1975-1976), then in the Municipal Court of Hamilton County (1976-1980).   William A. McClain
WIlliam A. McClain
McClain Photograph Collection
Cincinnati History Library and Archives
Cincinnati Museum Center
Judge McClain participated to a very great degree in his undergraduate and graduate schools. He served as a board member and as President of the Wittenberg Alumni Association. He was a member of the Committee of Visitors for the University of Michigan Law School.
McClain's civic interests were wide ranging and included serving as a trustee of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. He also had a special interest in his national fraternity and in Scottish Rite Masonry. He rose to the office of National President (Grand Sire Archon) of the Alpha Delta Boule, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. The Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity began in 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to bring together in a common bond of fraternal union a group of black business and professional men who had achieved a college degree and who had distinguished themselves in careers and/or civic affairs. The Alpha Delta Boule (a "boule" was a council within the government of most Greek city states) is the Cincinnati subordinate boule.
McClain campaign flyer
McClain campaign flyer
William A. McClain Papers, 1927-1989, Mss 916, Box 1, Item 14
Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center

McClain was elevated to the 33rd degree of masonry and became Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio. He spear-headed great expansion within the fraternal order and founded the Progressive Black Masonry Movement within the Masons and the Order of Eastern Star. William McClain died on February 4, 2014 at the age of 101.

To learn more about William McClain, consult the following resources:

William A. McClain Papers, 1927-1989
Mss 916
This collection contains correspondence, speeches, certificates, diplomas, scrapbooks, and clippings primarily from 1946 to 1989, concerning McClain's personal and professional life. It includes materials pertaining to Wittenberg University, University of Michigan Law School, Allen Temple A.M.E. Church, Freemasonry, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, and the offices of City Solicitor and Common Pleas Court judge. For More information, a detailed register for this collection is available in the library.   View catalog record   Request slip

Sources Used for Biographical Sketch:
  • William A. McClain Papers, 1927-1989, Mss 916, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Cincinnati Museum Center.


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This online guide opened on February 10, 2004.