For over 90 years, Black McCuskey has been located in downtown Canton and has been committed to its economic development and enriching the quality of life of the community. Over the decades, many members of the firm have served as leaders of civic and charitable organizations in Stark County and surrounding areas. The tradition of service to the community established by the founders of the firm has continued for more than 90 years. (View photos at bottom of page)
History of the firm: The firm was founded in 1922. Clarence G. Herbruck (left), Homer E. Black, Emery A. McCuskey and Walter S. Ruff, all established practitioners, formed a new law firm under the name of Herbruck, Black, McCuskey & Ruff. The firm’s offices were located in the then newly constructed George D. Harter Bank Building. Among the new firm’s major business clients was Harter Bank as well as several other companies in the steel, brick and ceramic tile industries. After Mr. Herbruck’s untimely death in 1925, Loren Souers, also an established practitioner, joined the firm and it was renamed Black, McCuskey, Ruff & Souers. The firm name changed to its present form of Black, McCuskey, Souers & Arbaugh in 1940, after the death of Ruff. This change recognized the contributions of Albert Arbaugh, who was an associate with the firm from its beginning and later was named a partner in the firm.
In 1922, a six member law firm in a city the size of Canton was quite unusual. Firms of that size were more common to large business and financial centers like New York, Chicago and Cleveland. The size of the firm remained relatively constant through the 1930’s. During the depression of the 1930’s, the viability and “staying power” of many commercial and professional institutions was severely challenged. During that time The Harter Bank, a major client of the firm, was forced to close. A plan for reopening the bank was developed by Homer Black, Emery McCuskey, Loren Souers and Donald Merwin of the firm and became the subject of major litigation that culminated in a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court approving the plan. The Black McCuskey plan for reopening The Harter Bank became a pattern for reopening banks throughout the state of Ohio, as well as other Midwestern states whose banking laws were similar to those of Ohio. Black McCuskey remained committed to working toward the economic recovery of its clients and of the Canton economy. The success of The Harter Bank Holding Company case was a benchmark in the recovery for Canton and Ohio.
The firm continued to grow during the 1940’s. Four of the attorneys, Richard McCuskey, Loren Souers, Jr., Dan Belden and E. Robert Schellhase entered military service during World War II. At the conclusion of the war, Souers, Belden and Schellhase returned to the active practice of law with the firm. McCuskey remained in Europe and served as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials before returning to the firm.
By the early 1950’s, the firm had ten attorneys and the corporate practice area began to grow; representing Union Metal, Belden & Blake Oil Production and Diebold, Incorporated. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the firm expanded and firmly established itself as a corporate law firm. In 1984, the firm of Shifman & Friedman merged their practice with Black McCuskey, expanding the commercial and real estate practice areas. By 1986, the firm had outgrown the offices in the Harter Bank building and relocated to its present location in the Huntington building. The firm merged again in 1999 with a law firm in Dover, Ohio to expand its services into Tuscarawas County and southeastern Ohio.
Eight Black McCuskey attorneys have been the recipients of Jaycees Distinguished Service Awards. Richard D. Dodez was so recognized by the North Canton Jaycees. Gene Barnhart was given the Award by the Jackson Township Jaycees. Five members of the firm were awarded the Canton Jaycees Distinguished Service Award: E. Robert Schellhase, Loren E. Souers, Jr., Ronald K. Bennington, Randolph L. Snow, and James R. Strawn. Additionally, the Canton Chamber of Commerce Award of Merit for Community Service was given to Emery McCuskey in 1949, Ronald Bennington in 1990 and Randy Snow in 2001. The Jackson Belden Chamber of Commerce presented an award of service to Gene Barnhart in 1982. In 2008, Randy Snow was honored by the Wilderness Center for his community service. Four Black McCuskey attorneys have been awarded the 20 under 40 award recognizing their outstanding achievements at a young age, Robert B. Preston (Tuscarawas County Chamber), Robert J. Murphy, Ryan A. Kuchmaner and Whitney Willits-Monroe (ystark!).
Black McCuskey also has a strong tradition in community health care service. Members of the firm have served on the board of trustees of Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center, on a variety of boards of United Way-funded agencies as well as other non-profit organizations. They have served as campaign chairpersons for the annual campaigns of United Way, the Cultural Center for the Arts, Malone College, Walsh University, and Catholic Charities.
Former partners of the firm include Loren Souers, Mr. Souers’ son, Loren Souers, Jr., who served on the Canton City Board of Education and the Ohio State Board of Education; Frank T. Bow, who later served as a long-term Congressman for the 16th Congressional District; Dan Belden, who became one of the most prominent trial attorneys in Stark County during his career; John Jolliffe, who developed an expertise in labor law; and David D. Dowd, Jr., who later accepted a Presidential appointment to serve as United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Ohio. Seven members of the firm have served as President of the Stark County Bar Association and two, Walter Ruff and Loren Souers, Jr., served as President of the Ohio State Bar Association.