Chambers '62 Honored with American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award

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The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession recently announced the names of influential leaders and legal practitioners who will receive 2009 Spirit of Excellence Awards in recognition of their efforts to promote a more diverse legal profession.

"These are leaders who have overcome barriers, who fought to make opportunities available to others, who have stood for achievement and encouraged diverse young people to pursue law as a career," said Fred Alvarez of Palo Alto, Calif., chair of the commission.

Among the honorees is Julius L. Chambers '62, clinical professor and director of the Center for Civil Rights at UNC School of Law; a founder and now of counsel to the Charlotte, N.C., law firm of Ferguson Stein Chambers Gresham and Sumter, P.A.; former chancellor at North Carolina Central University; and a former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

"Julius Chambers has been awarded numerous prestigious awards for his brave work to advance civil rights-awards that are richly deserved," said Jack Boger '74, dean of UNC School of Law and former NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund staffer under Chambers.  "However, his efforts to support the next generation of lawyers and to increase the diversity of a profession to which he's committed his life have long been underappreciated.

"This award recognizes his lifelong commitment to pave the way for the generations we hope will follow his remarkable path," said Boger. 

Other 2009 award recipients include:

  • Colleen Hanabusa, a practicing lawyer in her own firm in Honolulu, the first woman president of the Hawaii Senate and the first Asian-American woman in the country to preside over a state legislative body
  • Joan Haratani, a litigation partner in the San Francisco office of Morgan Lewis, and a past president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, the first minority woman to hold that post in the association's history
  • Charles J. Ogletree, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Founding and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School
  • Richard A. Soden, of counsel to the Boston office of the national law firm of Goodwin Procter LLP, where he was among the first African-American law partners, a member of the ABA Board of Governors, and someone who has been active in supporting youth programs, community development, and other activities in Boston and nationally that reach out to lawyers from diverse groups and that work for
    access to justice for all members of society 
  • Dan Sosa Jr., a retired justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, where he became known as the "champion of the working people," being recognized for efforts throughout his legal career to encourage Hispanic people to become lawyers and judges William A. Von Hoene Jr., executive vice president and general counsel of Exelon Corp. in Chicago, who has advocated in behalf of diversity in the legal profession throughout his career, and worked tirelessly to mentor and advance the careers of ethnically and racially diverse lawyers

The awards will be presented Feb. 14, 2009, at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, during the 2009 ABA Midyear Meeting.

The ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is a catalyst to change the legal profession to reflect the society it serves. It helps racially and ethnically diverse lawyers advance their careers and standing in the profession. Its leadership, programs and information help the profession understand and eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination. The commission works to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession, and thus enrich it.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

-December 8, 2008

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