“I started describing myself that way years ago and recall that people would always look at me strangely,” he said.
That moniker took root early in North’s career as a top labor, employment, and civil rights attorney, taking up women’s causes and helping them build careers and support their families in a safe work environment, even when strong laws did not exist to ensure women’s rights,
“I saw instances where women were treated so badly, they were forced to resign,” he said. “Because there were no laws to protect them at that time, I represented them under different kinds of theories, like assault and battery, and constructive discharge.”
North went on to build a significant practice representing women in harassment lawsuits and as the laws evolved, so did his practice. His activism resulted in recovering more than $8.3 million in verdicts and settlements over his career.
That North would become a highly regarded employment lawyer might have been predestined, judging from his career path.
He attended the University of Missouri at Kansas City as a Victor Wilson Scholar and graduated in 1961 with a math degree. He started his career stocking shelves at a local Kroger grocery store and worked his way into management. But that job was short-lived.
“I didn’t find great fulfillment in getting all the cans on the shelves and began looking elsewhere,” he said.
In 1964, North landed a position with the U.S. Labor Department where he excelled as a federal wage and hour investigator. He credits that position for sparking his interest in law.
He enrolled in the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law, received his J.D. degree in 1971, and over the course of his career, honed his craft and built his reputation as an effective trial lawyer on both the plaintiff and defense sides. He also fostered the careers of young Black attorneys in Missouri and grew his firm — Basil L. North Jr. & Associates to become the largest Black-owned law firm in Kansas City.
“I started so long ago, there were not a lot of jobs for minority lawyers,” he said. “Over the years I hired 22 different Black attorneys in my law firms, which was quite rewarding.”
At 85, North is semi-retired. At the heart of his historic career, heart is his family. He credits his hardworking parents and his five daughters for inspiring his success. Three of his daughters are pursuing successful careers in medicine, law and entertainment. His youngest, a pair of twins, are students at Howard University.
After North’s significant contributions to women’s rights over the course of his career, it seems fitting that he is a proud girl dad.