Although the famed African American lawyer and civil rights advocate George McMechen is remembered fondly for his service to the community, he is best remembered for living on McCulloh Street. In June 1910, McMechen and his family moved to 1834 McCulloh Street and the local white community reacted with outrage. The first night McMechen and his family stayed at the house on McCulloh Street, white Baltimoreans vandalized it. In the middle of the night,someone broke all the windows and flung a brick through the third-story skylight. In late 1910, white-owned newspapers reported that the vandalism occurred as a direct result of McMechen family choosing to live on McCulloh Street.
In response to the McMechen family, and several other African American families moving to McCulloh Street, the city responded with a Segregation Ordinance. The ordinance declared:
"No negro may take up his residence in a block within the city limits of Baltimore wherein more than half the residents are white."
McMechen said of the ordinance, “it is my opinion as a lawyer that it is clearly unconstitutional, unjust, and discriminating against the negro, although on its face it appears to be equally fair to white and black….our people feel very deeply the action taken, and there is no doubt but that this feeling will shortly crystallize into a movement against the ordinance which will result in legal proceedings to have it declared void as it certainly is.” McMechen led the crusade in the courts against the ordinance, which would force him out of his home on McCulloh Street. McMechen took his case all the way to the Maryland Court of Appeals—and won.
As an influential figure in Baltimore’s African American community, George McMechen served in many important appointed positions throughout his life. He served as a trustee of Morgan College from 1921 to 1939. He was also the first African American member appointed to the Board of School Commissioners. Lastly, he was the first Baltimorean elected Grand Exalted Ruler (National President) of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World. George McMechen continued to practice law until his death on February 22, 1961. In 1972, Morgan State erected its School of Business and named it in McMechen's honor.
The research and writing of this article was funded by two grants: one from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and one from the Baltimore National Heritage Area.