William Douglas Arant (born May 19, 1897 in Waverly, Lee County – died October 1987) was a leading Birmingham attorney, partner in the firm of Tilman, Bradley and Baldwin now known as Bradley Arant Boult Cummings.
William, called Douglas, was born on a small Lee County farm to William Jackson and Emma Baker Arant. He finished high school in 1914 and then received a scholarship given by General and Mrs R. D. Johnston, which he applied to his studies at the University of Virginia. He further supplemented his tuition by working odd jobs, including a term spent recording the parallax of fixed stars in the university observatory three nights a week.
In May 1918 his studies were interrupted by World War I. He went to Atlanta hoping to enlist as a Navy flier, but his eyesight was poor, so he joined the Army instead. He was sent to Fort Oglethorpe where he was enrolled in a regular army cavalry unit, then sent to a ranch in Texas and to Camp Clark, where he, as the only one in his battery who could read and write, was made Clerk. He attended Officers Candidate Training School at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, and was commissioned second lieutenant in 1919.
Returning to Charlottesville that year, he completed his bachelor of science and master of science degrees. In 1923 he received his law degree, magna cum laude at Yale University, where he, like his older brother Herschel, served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He also worked as an instructor in political science during summer terms. He was admitted to the Alabama State Bar in 1923 shortly after joining the firm of Tilman, Bradley and Baldwin. He was elevated to partner in the firm in 1927, and his name was added to the firm's nameplate in 1945.
Between 1933 and 1945, Arant served as either counsel to, or a member of, a number of agencies. He became special assistant to the United States Attorney General and chief counsel for the Petroleum Administration Board, National Recovery Administration, Washington, D.C. in 1933. The next year he served as chairman of the Regional Labor Board, Sixth District, National Recovery Administration, and in 1942 was the public member for the Fourth Regional Labor Board in Atlanta. Arant was also a member of the Board of Appeals, District Two, Alabama Selective Service System from 1940 to 1945. He was appointed to the US Postal Commission by President Richard Nixon during the tenure of Postmaster General Winton Blount.
Although a democrat and a strong supporter of Franklin Roosevelt, he did agree to chair the National Committee for Independent Courts which opposed the president's attempts to pack the Supreme Court with partisan appointees. In 1953, at the request of the Attorney General, Arant agreed to serve as a member of the National Committee To Study The Antitrust Laws. The Committee issued its influential Report on the proper interpretation and application of the antitrust statutes (with recommendations for changes) in 1958.
Arant was a member of the American Bar Association's Committee on the Bill of Rights from 1938 to 1945, serving as its Chairman from 1941 to 1943. He was also a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Arant’s other professional interests included memberships in the Alabama State Bar of which he was president in 1936 and Board of Commissioners from 1931 to 1940, the Birmingham Bar Association which honored him as Lawyer of the Year in 1976, the Bar Association of the City of New York, and the American Law Institute, to which he was elected a “'life member” in 1967.
Arant was an organizer of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, which he served as president. He was also an active, long time member of St Mary’s on the Highlands Episcopal Church and the Democratic Party.
In the early 1950s, he sponsored the first African-American attorney for membership in the Birmingham Bar Association — Oscar Adams, who later became a justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Sympathetic to individuals who sought to overturn racial segregation in the 1960s, Arant stopped short of making any public statements on the matter. He advised Benjamin Muse of the Southern Regional Council that the best hope for change in Birmingham was to apply pressure to the executives of national corporations who exerted influence in the city, such as Roger Blough (U. S. Steel), S. I. Newhouse (Birmingham News), Harold Helm (Chemical National New York Trust), George Champion (Chase Manhattan Bank) and Henry Alexander (Morgan Guaranty Trust). After the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church Arant and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce president William Spencer III issued statements deploring the effect of violence and lawlessness on the economic future of the city.
Arant served as president of the Birmingham Civic Symphony Association and the Birmingham Civic Opera Association, as a foundation trustee of Brook Hill School and the Eye Foundation, and as a member of the board of directors for Norton Center and Birmingham-Southern College.
He was married to the former Letitia Tyler McNeil on December 31, 1929 and they had three daughters: Adele Goodwyn (Stockham), Letitia Christian and Frances Fairlie (Maginnes). His grandchildren include Richard J. Stockham, III, Douglas Arant Stockham, Adele Arant Culp & David Tyler Maginnes.
- "Two City Leaders Deplore Bombing" (September 16, 1963) Birmingham Post-Herald - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Eskew, Glenn T. (1997) But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807846678
- Bradley, Arant, Rose and White LLP. (no date) "Douglas Arant" attorney biography.