Otis Bruce, Bar Association’s First Black President

By Godfrey Lee

Otis Bruce, Jr. has been installed as the first Black president of the 75-year old Marin County Bar Association (MCBA).
During the January 8 MCBA Installation Dinner and Silent Auction held at the Embassy Suites in San Rafael, 18 new directors and officers were sworn into the association by the Honorable William Stephens who administered the Oath of Office.
In his acceptance speech, Bruce asked all the lawyers to understand that their true role in society is not only to be an advocate, but also to become “an agent of real change. You’re the true harbingers, the guardians of what is supposed to be right, righteously defending those who don’t have rights and defending those who are underprivileged.”
Bruce has been that agent of change for Marin County not only in becoming the first Black president of the MCBA, but also as one of the first Black lawyer to work in Marin in 1989. In 1995, he served as Marin County’s first Black Prosecutor.
Bruce has also help change the community in his work with the many civic and community groups including the North Bay Children’s Center, Marin Association of Public Employees, Friends of Margarita Johnson Senior Center, Performing Stars of Marin, Terra Linda Rotary, the Marin Community Foundation Community Partnership Committee and the National Black Prosecutors Association.
As a youth, Bruce learned the value of hard work and to appreciate the land. He is the oldest of six children, which he had to help raise. His father, who passed in 2007, was a veteran who served in Korea. His mother, Thomasine, has always loved her children and never turned her back on them.
Bruce was eight years old when his mother and father separated and divorced. His mother moved the family back to Mississippi. They lived in a small three-bedroom house with no bathroom. It was also near his grandfather, George “Sport” Patterson, a sharecropper, who owned his farm.
Bruce worked closely with his grandfather and helped out on the farm.
He learned the meaningful lessons of farming, construction, horse trading and how to work both hard and smartly. He said he was taught when “to stand up to be counted, To speak up when it is time to speak up. And, to shut up and listen when it is time to shut up and listen.” Bruce thinks these lessons should also apply to lawyers who are advocates for social change as well.
Bruce says his core identity and sense of who he is comes from within along with what he has learned, and not just from being an attorney. His goal as a lawyer is not to just become financially successfully, but to also continue working for social change. He sees Marin City as a very small but strong community; and wants that strength to be a part of his life. And he also wants to remain an integral part of the Bay Area and Marin County.

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