Take a look at the picture above. It’s an impressive group of 29 lawyers who have served as president of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys.
And that’s got to be one of the longest cutlines we’ve ever had on a photo in this newspaper.
They all convened in Williamsburg Oct. 11 for the VADA’s 50th Anniversary gala, a shindig that was long on history and longer on tall tales.
The VADA was founded in 1968 by a group of six lawyers who met in Richmond for the purpose of establishing an organization for civil litigation defense attorneys.
The original name? “The Insurance Trial Counsel of Virginia.” There’s an idea that mercifully died at the idea stage.
At the group’s second meeting, a gathering at the Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville in December 1968, the number of founding fathers (yep, there were no women involved) had grown to 35 and the VADA was a thing.
The first decade or so was a little rocky, but by the early 1980s, the group was on solid ground.
The VADA brought on staff in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with Molly Terry and Leigh Farmer making the trains run on time for years. While Farmer retired in 2011, Terry still continues to be involved. Sherma Mather is the current executive director and Amy Gilbody is the director of meetings.
Back to the picture. Bunky Miller wins the award for earliest service – he was president in 1983-84. Cal Thomas is strong second place, having served the very next term, 1984-85.
The VADA can proudly claim one first for Virginia bar groups: Terrence Graves, who led the VADA in 2007-08, was the first African-American to serve as president of a major statewide bar. Doris H. Causey was the second, having been Virginia State Bar president from 2017-18.
While there were no women at the Boar’s Head in 1968, and it took 40-some years for a woman to lead the group, when Lisa Frisina took the helm in 2011-12. There was a start at catch-up the following year when Frisina was followed by Elizabeth Perrow, then Kate McCauley two years later. Melissa Katz of Fairfax is set to be joining the female presidents group soon; she currently is the VADA president-elect.
The theme for the overall meeting was “Looking Back and Moving Forward.” No doubt the leaders of the VADA already are planning and plotting the next 50 years.
— Paul Fletcher