Founded in 1966, the ABA's Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities is dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights among members of the bar and the general public. Through education and advocacy, IRR expresses the legal profession's commitment to work to achieve the American ideals of justice, freedom, and equality for all through the legal system. The Thurgood Marshall Award was established in 1992 to help further these goals.
The Thurgood Marshall Award is named for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award is intended to recognize similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights in the United States. Justice Marshall received the inaugural award in 1992.
2012 AWARD - Lawrence R. Baca, former U.S. Department of Justice attorney and first American Indian recipient
2011 AWARD - Elaine R. Jones, Civil Rights Pioneer
2010 AWARD - Paul M. Smith, U.S. Supreme Court Advocate
2009 AWARD - Hon. Janet Reno, former U.S. Attorney General
2008 AWARD - Hon. Nancy Gertner, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
2007 AWARD - Hon. Matthew J. Perry, Jr., South Carolina’s first African American U.S. District Court judge
2006 AWARD - Julius Chambers, North Carolina lawyer and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. leader
2005 AWARD - Hon. Abner J. Mikva, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
2004 AWARD - Fred D. Gray, Alabama attorney who represented Rosa Parks among others
2003 AWARD - Dale Minami, San Francisco lawyer who represented defendants in World War II internment cases
2002 AWARD - Hon. Don Edwards, former U.S. Congressman
2001 AWARD - Hon. William Wayne Justice, Senior judge of the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
2000 AWARD - Hon. Revius O. Ortique, Jr., first African-American elected to the Louisiana Supreme Court
1999 AWARD - Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
1998 AWARD - Stephen B. Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights
1997 AWARD - Hon. Damon J. Keith, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
1996 AWARD - Jack Greenberg, civil rights attorney and Columbia University professor who worked with Thurgood Marshall for many years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
1995 AWARD - Ralph S. Abascal, General Counsel of California Rural Legal Assistance
1994 AWARD - Oliver W. Hill, civil rights attorney in Richmond, Va., who worked with Justice Marshall on school desegregation cases
1993 AWARD - Hon. Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Senior Judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
1992 AWARD - Justice Thurgood Marshall