The award, which celebrates the accomplishments of lawyers who promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession, will be presented Feb. 9 at the Hilton Anatole during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas.
A trailblazer in diversity, Sutton has transcended racial barriers throughout his career. He was the first African-American to work as a lawyer at both Tenneco Oil Co. and Texas Instruments. He was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas. He was the first African-American to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional counsel’s office in Dallas and the Dallas Environmental Health Advisory Committee.
The Dallas Bar Association presented Dr. Sutton with the 2012 Martin Luther King Award, which is given to a leader who demonstrates the values and ideals of Dr. King. ABA Past President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson also recognized Dr. Sutton with an ABA Presidential Citation during the association’s 2012 Annual Meeting.
At Wal-Mart, Sutton is responsible for the development and coordination of diversity for its legal department. He also serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Wiley College, a four-year, private, historically black, liberal arts college in Marshall, Texas.
“Walter Sutton epitomizes the values advanced by the Spirit of Excellence Award. His illustrious career has led him all over the country, from corporations to schools to government roles and back,” said Reginald Turner, the chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.
“At every step, he has taken care to perform with professionalism, diligence and collegiality, and to advocate for diversity and inclusion with tremendous effectiveness,” Turner added. “Walter has secured his place in history as a champion of equal opportunities in our noble profession. He continues to mentor and inspire young lawyers and law students who are certain to follow in his path.”
The mission of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession is to promote racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. It serves as a catalyst for change, so that the profession may more accurately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of society, and better serve society. The Commission takes actions to promote the recruitment, hiring, promotion and advancement of attorneys of color, and works to ensure equal membership and employment opportunities for diverse lawyers in the American Bar Association. The Commission accomplishes these goals through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the Spirit of Excellence Award.
With nearly 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.