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Tue, 04.25.1854

George Washington Fields, Lawyer born

George Washington Fields

*George Washington Fields was born on this date in 1854.  He was a Black Lawyer.

Fields was the son of Washington Fields and Martha Ann Berkley, two enslaved people in Virginia. He grew up on a plantation in Hanover Courthouse, Virginia. During an American Civil War skirmish in July 1863, Fields and his family escaped the plantation to Fort Monroe.

Over the next decade, he intermittently pursued a public education while working various jobs as an oyster culler, hack driver, and steamboat waiter. He graduated from Hampton Institute in 1878 and headed north for full-time employment. His older brother James A. Fields, an 1881 graduate, became a teacher.

Following several jobs as a waiter at resorts and servant for prominent families, Fields became a butler for Alonzo B. Cornell, Governor of New York, from 1880 to 1882. Continuing to educate himself, Fields began reading law in preparation for a legal career. Although intending to study at Yale Law School, Cornell convinced him to enroll at Cornell University, founded by Cornell's father, Ezra Cornell. In 1887, Fields enrolled in the inaugural class of Cornell Law School, graduating in 1890 and having authored a thesis titled Trial by Jury.

Fields returned to Hampton, Virginia, to practice law with his older brother. Although he lost his sight in 1896, he became a leading lawyer in the area with a large law practice of both white and Black clients, and he was active in several community organizations. Fields married Sarah "Sallie" Haws Baker on November 28, 1892, with whom he had two children. Their son died in infancy, but their daughter, Inez C. Fields, became the second Black woman admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and worked for William H. Lewis.

She was the third Black woman admitted to the Virginia State Bar and worked for her father's practice. They were possibly the first Black father-daughter team to practice law in Virginia. George Fields died at the Dixie Hospital in Hampton on August 19, 1932.

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