Join us on Wednesday, May 29th as we celebrate and honor the commitment of our award winners and their organizations at our 2024 Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon!

Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon
May 29, 2024
JW Marriott 
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

The Wiley A. Branton Award

Vanita Gupta

Wiley A. Branton was a tireless advocate for civil rights and equal justice throughout his entire career – as a private practitioner in Arkansas, a leader of federal agencies in Washington, and a Dean of the Howard University School of Law. The Wiley A. Branton Award is annually bestowed upon members of the legal community whose careers embody a deep and abiding commitment to civil rights and economic justice advocacy. To read more about The Wiley A. Branton Award, click here. 

Corporate Citizen Leadership Award

The Corporate Citizen Leadership Award is newly established in 2024 to recognize a corporate leader with a strong commitment to civil rights and racial justice. This award recognizes that the cause of racial justice requires a whole-of-society strategy including corporations and businesses.

The Alfred McKenzie Award

The Alfred McKenzie Award was established in 1994 to recognize Washington Lawyers’ Committee clients whose dedication and courage have produced civil rights victories of particular significance. It takes its name from a man whose efforts as a Committee plaintiff helped to change an institution. To read more about The Alfred McKenzie Award, click here.

The Rod Boggs Award

Over a long and distinguished career, Rod Boggs has left an indelible mark on the civil rights and anti-poverty law landscape in our city and beyond. Rod’s work as the executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, and earlier as a staff attorney at the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has extended nearly five decades beginning in 1969. He contributed to advances in virtually every area of civil rights law and raised the profile of pro bono practice in the legal profession. To read more about The Rod Boggs Award, click here. 

The Outstanding Achievement Awards

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee partners with the private bar and nonprofits to provide legal assistance to individuals and communities who experience violations of their civil rights.  Each year, area lawyers and law firms contribute thousands of hours of their time on cases and projects. During the Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon, the Committee recognizes these important law firm and advocacy organization partnerships through Outstanding Achievement Awards.

Wiley A. Branton was a tireless advocate for civil rights and equal justice throughout his entire career—as a private practitioner in Arkansas, a leader of federal agencies in Washington, and a Dean of the Howard University School of Law. The Wiley A. Branton Award is annually bestowed upon members of the legal community whose careers embody a deep and abiding commitment to civil rights and economic justice advocacy.

wiley branton
Wiley A. Branton, Sr.

Dean Branton started his career in private practice in Arkansas in the 1950’s, representing African-American criminal defendants in often racially charged prosecutions. Working with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, he took on some of the most significant civil rights cases in the South, including the representation of the Freedom Riders in Mississippi, who were arrested for desegregating public transportation and public accommodations.

Among his most notable cases was the litigation that desegregated the Little Rock public schools. It was Dean Branton’s injunction that led to President Eisenhower calling out federal troops to escort African-American students to school. From 1962 to 1965, he led the Voter Education Project in Atlanta. During the three years he was at the helm, the project registered more than 600,000 African Americans to vote.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Dean Branton to lead the President’s Council on Equal Opportunity and then to work on the implementation of the Civil Rights Act as special assistant to the United States Attorney General. In 1967, he became executive director of the United Planning Organization, the District of Columbia’s anti-poverty agency. Two years later, he directed the social action program of the Alliance for Labor Action.

From 1978 to 1983, Mr. Branton was dean of Howard University Law School. During his tenure at Howard, he dedicated himself to the training of the next generation of civil rights advocates.

Following Dean Branton’s death in 1988, his friend Justice Thurgood Marshall remembered him as a great man who “believed in people and believed in what was right.’’

Wiley Branton was an inspiration to everyone who had the privilege of knowing and working with him. He personified the legal profession’s ideal of pro bono service that is at the heart of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s missionThe Wiley A. Branton Award was first bestowed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee in 1989. It takes its name from Wiley A. Branton, Sr., an extraordinary man whose life embodied civil rights advocacy of the highest order.

CLICK HERE FOR PREVIOUS AWARD RECIPIENTS 

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