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John Daniels, Jr. is breaking barriers at Quarles & Brady, paving the future

By Andrea Williams,


Quarles and Brady Law Firm was established in 1892 and is now the second-largest firm in the state.

What started in a small Milwaukee office has grown into a national firm with clients around the world.

John Daniels, Jr. learned early on that one's circumstances does not control who you are.

"Well you know, it's sort of being at the right place at the right time. So you know, I tell everybody almost continuously that you know, I started my education at a segregated school in Alabama and I mean, legally segregated, you know three or four room school and finished at Harvard Law School," said Daniels.

He and his wife Irma moved back to Milwaukee in what he describes as a 1967 beat-up Chevrolet with everything they owned in a 4x6 U-Haul.

"I had no idea what it would be, I just knew that we'd have an opportunity to do something in this community," said Daniels.

In 2006, Mr. Daniels also became Quarles and Brady's first African-American partner.

Dan Conley is a partner at Quarles and Brady.

"John is oddly enough very humble despite all his accomplishments; despite his Harvard degree, he is very practical. He's a classic example of someone to whom much is given, then much was expected in return and John delivers," he said.

He credits his family with grounding him and teaching him values.

"So you know, I'm from a big family. I grew up on the north side of Milwaukee, went to...all of us went to Milwaukee Public Schools. And so probably the driving element of all that was my dad was a really hard worker. And my mom was really religious and a hard worker," said Daniels.

Daniels is the driving force behind the MKE Fellows, a powerful initiative offering support to academically talented African American young men in Wisconsin.

"It's wonderful to see a youngster start in high school and then see him become a lawyer, doctor, a media person. So now have hundreds who've navigated that way and have started to invest in other people," he said.

His son, John Daniels III, plays an instrumental role in the organization.

"Fortunately my son, he found his passion in sort of accelerating growth of young people," said Daniels.

Drive and success clearly run in the family.

"I think that each of us in our own way have thought about how do we share what our gift is to the community," said Daniels.

His brother, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, runs the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God In Christ. There's also the Institute for the Preservation of African American Music and Arts also known as IPAMA.

"One of the things that I think is, you have to have cultural institutions that people are proud of, you know, no matter what background and you need to reinforce...reinforcement that one way of doing it is for people to see tangible things," said Daniels.

His sister Valerie Daniels-Carter is not only a successful entrepreneur, but also a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. And his late sister Hattie Daniels-Rush was appointed to the National Commission on Presidential Scholars by Former President George W. Bush.

Daniels and his family have achieved great recognition from some pretty extraordinary people for the work they've done and continue to do for Milwaukee and beyond.

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