Thanks to a Black-owned business, actually a Black-owned law firm, Cheyney University is still alive.
That firm, founded and headed by Joe H. Tucker Jr., Esquire, is the Tucker Law Group (TLG). And Mr. Tucker, as the attorney for an activist alumni organization known as Heeding Cheyney's Call (HCC), filed a lawsuit that ultimately saved the oldest Black institution of higher learning in America from death. But I'll get back to that later.
Now I must explain why I wrote today's article and why it will be part of a series to promote exemplary Black businesses in the Philadelphia area.
On September 11, I started a series entitled "Jim Crow Hiring in Philadelphia." It includes a "Show & Shame" component that names and exposes the city's most egregious racially discriminating white employers. But because I do not intend to rely on "begging the white man" for a job, as Brother Malcolm put it, I decided that, beginning today, I will enhance that series by promoting exemplary Black businesses in a supplemental series called "New Black Wall Streets" that will include a "Show & Shop" component.
In regard to exemplary Black businesses, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. All we have to do is go back to what our ancestors did during slavery and shortly after it (supposedly) ended, until white mob violence eventually destroyed those businesses. For example, we all know about "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Okla. from the 1910s-1921 and Rosewood, Fla. from the early 1900s-1923. But many of us don't know about Seneca Village, N.Y. from 1825-1857, New Philadelphia, Ill. from 1836-mid 1880s, Weeksville, N.Y. from 1838-1930s, Davis Bend, Miss. from around 1865-1880s, Buffalo Bayou, Texas from 1865-mid 1920s, the Central and Vine Street community of Knoxville, Tenn. from the mid-1870s-1919, the LeDroit Park/Howard University neighborhood of Washington, D.C. from the 1890s-1919, Allensworth, Calif. from 1908-circa 1915, Blackdom, N.M. from around 1908-1920s, and East St. Louis, Ill. from around 1910-1917.
This "do for self" mentality is what led Mr. Tucker here in Philadelphia to establish TLG, which has an army of about a dozen prominent lawyers including the preeminent Carl E. Singley, Esquire. TLG is the largest Black-owned law firm- and one of the most successful law firms whether Black or white- on the East Coast.
Parenthetically, I must mention that as a capital murder trial lawyer for more than 20 years, I know or know of all the major players in the city's legal community. And I've either been to or seen on websites and in brochures all the office spaces at the top law firms. And TLG has the best by far. It has a lobby that looks like it was designed for a five-star hotel. It has spacious glass-enclosed conference rooms. It has corner offices on the 25th floor with a view of Center City that rivals what Billy Penn can see atop City Hall. It has large flat screen TVs everywhere. It has a Martha Stewart-type cooking and dining area. It has a state-of-the-art fitness center. And it has Black artwork on every wall. In a word, Mr. Tucker's office space is breathtaking.
But enough about the form of his office. What about its substance? What about his substance? Well, simply stated, it's powerful. Let me count the ways.
When Cheyney was on the verge of shutting down in 2013, HCC, founded by Professor Sonny Harris and later including yours truly, decided to file a historic racial discrimination lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to save Cheyney. Therefore, we searched thoroughly for lawyers with extensive experience in higher education litigation. And one name kept popping up. And that name was Joe Tucker. But we bypassed him initially because his reputation- as a pit bull and brainy plaintiffs' litigator who consistently wins multi-million dollar verdicts and also as a pit bull and brainy defendants' litigator who blocks undeserving claimants from getting even a penny- put him way out of our league.
In other words, we couldn't afford the six figure fee that a lawyer of his caliber requires and deserves. But then something providential happened.
A mutual friend reached out to Mr. Tucker without my knowledge and told him about Cheyney's plight. That friend then set up a meeting for me to discuss the situation with Mr. Tucker. And the rest, as they say, is history. Mr. Tucker was so supportive and so accommodating that he became simply my good friend "Joe."
And not only did Joe file the lawsuit in 2014, he also insisted on paying the filing fee himself. Furthermore, he adamantly refused to accept any fee whatsoever from us- which was a good thing because, based on my calculations, we probably owe him more than $150,000 dollars for his pre-trial skills that in January 2016 resulted in Cheyney not only being saved from death but also getting an opportunity to become bigger, better, and Blacker.
If you think Joe's impressive because of that, there's more. He's an illustrious federal and state court trial/appellate lawyer with 25 years of experience who handles (and wins) personal injury, products liability, civil rights, employment discrimination, police brutality, higher education, defamation, medical malpractice, and other high-profile cases.
In regard to defamation cases, for instance, he sued the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Main Lines Times, which resulted in a $1.5 million verdict with The Inquirer publishing an unprecedented apology.
In regard to medical malpractice, for instance, he filed heart surgery-related lawsuits against St. Christopher's Hospital that resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts that in turn resulted in the Commonwealth stopping the hospital from doing any more of those surgeries.
Although he's been named in the elite Pennsylvania Super Lawyers directory, he's never forgotten his North Philly roots, having been raised at 24th and Lehigh by a nurturing mother and hardworking father. He's an HBCU grad from prestigious Howard University (although it really should've been Cheyney).
He created and funds a scholarship for poor students from Philadelphia who attend Howard and two scholarships for Black students at his Temple Law School alma mater. He's taught at University of Penn Law School. He was the president of the Barristers' Association. And he's a volunteer at Big Brothers of America. He's just a cool guy with determination, intellect, and love for his people.
Many exemplary Black businesses providing all kinds of goods and services will be featured in this "New Black Wall Streets" series with a "Show & Shop" list that will show you who and where they are so you can shop there. The first on that list is TLG at Ten Penn Center, 1801 Market Street, Suite 2500, Philadelphia, PA 19103. The phone number is (215) 875-0609 and the website is tlgattorneys.com.
Let's do what our ancestors did. Let's support Black businesses. Let's do for self!