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Luncheon Program

Opening Remarks

Hon. Henry Hamilton III

Chair, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

Luncheon Service

Difference Makers Awards Presentation

Stephen J. Curley

Awards Committee Chair

Difference Maker Award

Barbara Glesner Fines

University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
Kansas City, Missouri

Making a Difference by Breaking Barriers

Russell E. Lovell II and David S. Walker

Drake Law School
Des Moines, Iowa

Making a Difference through Community Service

Hon. Odell G. McGhee

Des Moines, Iowa

Making a Difference through Pro Bono Work 

Iowa-Nebraska NAACP Legal Redress Committee

Des Moines, Iowa
Accepted by Betty C. Andrews, President, Iowa-Nebraska NAACP State Area Conferences of Branches

Making a Difference through Service to the Profession 

Kelly J. Adams

Alpha Omega Law Firm, LLC
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania 

Closing Remarks

Hon. Henry Hamilton III

Chair, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

About the Awards

The ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division's (GPSolo) Difference Makers Awards recognize extraordinary individuals who “make a difference” by breaking down barriers, through community service, pro bono work, or service to the profession. Nominees are encouraged to be members of the ABA and GPSolo.

Difference Maker

This award honors a deserving individual who is an attorney or non-attorney: (a) who has made a difference in the local community and (b) who lives in the local geographic area where the Division is meeting and where the Difference Makers Awards program is being held.

Making a Difference by Breaking Barriers

This award honors an attorney living or deceased who broke barriers for gender, color, disabilities, or sexual orientation.

Making a Difference through Community Service

This award honors an attorney living or deceased who made a significant lifetime contribution to the local community through community service (not necessarily through bar work or pro bono work per se).

Making a Difference through Pro Bono Work

This award honors an attorney, law firm, corporate legal department, government attorney office, or institution in the legal profession that has made an outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged. (Recognizes an outstanding local attorney or group that does pro bono work.)

Making a Difference through Service to the Profession

This award honors an attorney living or deceased who made a significant contribution to the legal profession through service to the profession (i.e. frequent activities in bar associations, committees and services).

Kelly J. Adams

Alpha Omega Law Firm, LLC
Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Making a Difference through Service to the Profession

Kelly Adams is a sole practitioner licensed in the state if Pennsylvania and the 3rd Circuit United States Court of Appeals.

Her firm, Alpha Omega Law Firm, is located in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Kelly joined the GPSolo section in 2015 as a diversity board fellow. Since then, she has served the Diversity Board as a member, Chair and Diversity Director. As Diversity Director, Kelly has been committed to activating diversity within the legal profession. This work is especially important to Kelly, as the law lays the foundation of what behavior is acceptable. Therefore, the legal profession needs diversity, since the law affects everyone. She has had the privilege of starting the “Activate Diversity” Series, sponsored by the Diversity Board, that educates, challenges and empowers members of the legal profession to notice our differences, embrace them and include them in the very important work that attorneys do.

In addition to the Diversity Board, she has also served on the Publications Board and enjoyed the privilege of writing an article for the GPSolo Magazine.

Personally, Kelly has three sons, Elijah, Joshua and Caleb who are the joys in her life. She is committed to having a balanced life that allows her to have an involved presence in their lives as well as meet the demands of a challenging career. Occasionally, she takes meetings in the football parking lot to achieve this. She also travels as a motivational speaker for young people with the mission to encourage them to follow their dreams, embrace their identity and empower them to overcome obstacles they may face on their journey. Most recently, she traveled to South Africa where she spoke to over 600 learners, one of which she sponsored as the learner’s dream is to become an “advocate”. Licensed to practice law since 2013, Kelly is committed to using this privilege to practice law as a means to add value to this profession and impact lives by knocking down the barriers of ignorance and encouraging love and kindness among humanity. 

Barbara Glesner Fines

University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
Kansas City, Missouri
Difference Maker Award

Barbara Glesner Fines is the Dean of the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law, where she has been a member of the faculty since 1986.  She served as Executive Associate Dean from 2008 to 2016 and as Interim Dean from January 2017 until she was appointed Dean in June of 2018.  Endowed as the Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law, Glesner Fines received her master of law degree from Yale University and her J.D. (cum laude) from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Professor Glesner Fines is an expert on professional ethics, family law, and legal education and has authored numerous articles and books on these subjects.  She has taught a range of courses from Property and Federal Income Tax to Family Law and Civil Procedure. Her drive to create community-connected legal education has led to the creation of several innovative programs at the School of Law.  She helped to found the UMKC School of Law Child and Family Law Program, which is currently ranked as one of the top four programs of its kind in the United States.  She is also one of the founding faculty members of the Entrepreneurial Lawyering: Solo & Small Firm Practice Program, which prepares students with critical law practice management skills.

This past year she was instrumental in launching the Self-Help Legal Clinic in collaboration with Legal Aid of Western Missouri.  Retired attorneys volunteer in the clinic, working with law students, to provide free brief advice and assistance to members of the public through the Leon E Bloch Law Library at the School of Law.  The program has continued through the COVID-19 crisis by shifting to an online delivery of legal services.

Iowa-Nebraska NAACP Legal Redress Committee

Des Moines, Iowa
Making a Difference through Pro Bono Work

The Des Moines NAACP Legal Redress Commitee recruits volunteer attorneys to assist members of the Des Moines community in obtaining valuable legal resources. We partner with existing legal organizations with legal redress matters in order to share resources and recruit new members. The Legal Redress Committee also seeks to implement professional and educational development initiatives for law students and new attorneys in the community.

Russell E. Lovell II

Drake Law School
Des Moines, Iowa
Making a Difference by Breaking Barriers

Drake University Law Professor Emeritus Russell Lovell taught constitutional law, employment discrimination and civil rights law, and remedies from 1976-2014, and served ten years as Associate Dean (collaborating with co-honoree Dean David Walker) and directed Drake’s Clinical Programs from 1995-1999. Russ mentored more than eighty Public Service Scholars as founder/director of Drake’s Public Service Scholarship Program. Drake University honored him as its Outstanding Professor for Experiential Learning for his creation of a practice observation experience of an actual Iowa jury trial for the entire 1L class—and Bloomberg Law, in 2023, recognized it as 1 of the 10 most innovative Law School programs.

It was during Russ’s clerkship for Federal Appeals Judge Floyd Gibson that he first helped break down racial barriers in an Arkansas school desegregation case. Thereafter Russ served as Director of Litigation for the Legal Services Organization of Indianapolis, specializing in Federal Court civil right litigation. His prison reform advocacy secured a Federal Court injunction closing a 48-cell “dungeon-like” solitary confinement unit in Indiana’s maximum-security prison and played a major role in the 1972 landmark Supreme Court due process ruling in Morrissey v. Brewer that guaranteed parolees a fair hearing before their paroles could be revoked.

2023 is Russ’s fiftieth year as an NAACP pro bono civil rights lawyer! His proudest accomplishments were his service as lead counsel on not one, but two, NAACP pattern and practice employment discrimination cases that were resolved by comprehensive Consent Decrees that integrated the Indiana State Police Department in the 1970’s and the Des Moines Fire Department in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Russ served as NAACP co-counsel on key remedies stages of the Indianapolis and Kansas City school desegregation cases, including successful advocacy before the Supreme Court in Jenkins v. Missouri in 1989. Since 2014 Lovell and Walker have filed nine NAACP Amicus Briefs in the Iowa and Nebraska Supreme Courts. Their advocacy has reinvigorated Iowa’s jury trial jurisprudence, expanded jury service eligibility to more than 160,000 former prisoners who had their citizenship rights restored, and resulted in enactment of the Des Moines Unbiased Policing Ordinance.

To use the words of former Drake Law Dean Alan Vestal, “the NAACP has repeatedly honored Russ Lovell for his unwavering civil rights commitment at every level of the NAACP”—Local (Des Moines), State (both Indiana and Iowa), 10-state central US Region (50th anniversary of Brown v. Board in Topeka, Kansas), and the Foot Soldier in the Sand Award at the 2005 National Convention. The Notre Dame Alumni Association awarded him the Fr. Louis Putz social justice advocacy award in 2023. In 2022 he was elected an American Bar Foundation Fellow. In 2020 Russ received the Iowa National Bar Association’s Journey Award for “demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” In 2018 the ACLU of Iowa honored Russ with its Louise Noun Award from for “having displayed uncommon courage on behalf of civil liberties in the state.” In 2013 the Iowa Juneteenth Celebration honored Russ as its “Iowa Citizen of the Year.”

Hon. Odell G. McGhee

Des Moines, Iowa
Making a Difference through Community Service

Judge Odell Gene McGhee was born in Liberty, Mississippi, on July 11, 1952. When he was thirteen years old his parents moved the family to Chicago, Illinois during the early “rural flight” to larger cities in 1960s. After finishing junior high and high school in the Chicago Public School System, he attended the University Of Illinois and transferred to Cornell College, Mount, Vernon, Iowa, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Secondary Education After graduating from Cornell College in 1974 he attended the Drake University School of Law and received a Juris Doctorate Degree in 1977. Judge McGhee studied in Europe in his junior year of college at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and the University of Arhus in Denmark. He has also taken classes at Cornell University, Itaca, New York and at the University of Nevada at Reno. Judge McGhee is licensed to practice law in the local, state and federal courts. He was elected to the national board of the National Bar Association and was president of the Iowa National Bar Association for over ten years. He was elected regional chair of the National Prosecutor Association and chaired several committees. He has served several terms on the Executive Board of the Iowa State Bar Association and on several special committees (Grievance, Bench Bar, Jury Instructions, Minority issues, and Criminal Law) of the Iowa State Bar Association and on the Executive Board of the Polk County Bar Association. He served four terms on the Iowa Supreme Courts Commission on Continuing Legal Education, and was a temporary examiner with the Iowa Board of Law Examiners. Judge McGhee was also on the Executive Board of the Young Lawyers Division of the Iowa State Bar Association. Judge McGhee was elected Vice President and President of the Iowa Judges’ Association in 2011 and served on the Executive Board for five years. He was the first African American to be elected to the Executive Board and the first to be elected president.

As a member of the Iowa community Judge McGhee was selected or appointed to the Des Moines Waterworks Commission (Chairman and Member), the Des Moines Housing Authority (Chairman and Member), the Hillside Development Commission(member), the Des Moines Playhouse (member), The Corinthian Garden Senior Citizen and Handicapped Apartment Complex (Chairman, Vice Chair, and member), The Corinthian Baptist Church Trustee Board (Chair, vice-chair and member), the Salvation Army Advisory Council (member and chair of the basketball program), the Metro Arts Board(member), the United Way of Iowa Board (member), the Drake University Board of Counselor for the Law School (member), The National Poetry Society (vice-chair), the Langston Hughes Theatrical Troupe (director and member), the I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa Committee (member), The Morris Scholarship Fund (chair, vice chair, and member), Minister of Outreach, Corinthian Baptist Church, the NAACP Legal Redress Committee(chair and member), the Council for International Living, The Community Scholarship Program, and the Iowa task Force on Men. He has further actively supported the Boys Scouts and other charitable organizations. He attends the Corinthian Baptist Church where he serves as Drama Minister and directs the breakfast program.

Since Judge McGhee’s graduation from Drake University, he has worked as Executive Program Developer/Planner with the Iowa Commission on the Aging where he developed a statewide legal delivery system for older Iowans. As part of his responsibilities he wrote a guide on elderly concerns, that was titled “ Legal Answers for Older Iowans”. A major part of his responsibilities was the drafting of legislation pertaining to elderly and handicapped rights and lobbying for senior citizens. After leaving the Elderly Commission in mid- 1979, Judge McGhee was employed by the Iowa Department of Environmental Quality as an Administrative Hearing Officer. His responsibilities included conducting all contested hearings, writing opinions and supervising the legal and technical support staff. He was Iowa first statewide African American Hearing Officer. He heard cases concerned with pollution issues of the water, land and air of Iowa. He was also periodically assigned to hear contested cases from the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Merit Employment Commission. In 1981, he was assign to direct litigation for the air and water sections of the Compliance Division of the Commission. In December of 1982 he started working at the Polk County Attorney’s Office. At the Polk County Attorney’s Office he supervised the drug and vice dockets for five years and was the lead attorney for the prosecution of felonies in the general crime bureau. In 1986 he was assigned to the Major Offense Bureau where he was special assistant assigned to direct dockets dealing with white-collar crimes and vehicular homicide. He prosecuted fifteen murder cases with that division. For five years he was specially assigned to the Civil Division, where he developed an expertise in defending discrimination suits filed against Polk County. He was also appointed Special Assistant U.S. Attorney working with the drug division. As part of his responsibilities he lectured at the Iowa State Police Academy and the Des Moines Police Academy. While an Assistant Polk County Attorney, he worked part time as a certified mediator with the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board and the Polk County Mediation Center. He was also an adjunct professor of Law periodically teaching business law, torts, criminal law, and constitutional law at The Drake Graduate School, the Des Moines Area Community College and Simpson College.

In February of 2002 Judge McGhee was appointed the Polk County Associate District Court where he was initially assigned a civil docket. He is only the fifth African American Judge to be appointed to the District Court in the State of Iowa. He has a special interest in young people and equal justice for all under the law. He has served on the juvenile, criminal trial, probation, alcohol/drugs, and domestic abuse dockets, with a special interest in trial and substance abuse. Judge McGhee retired from the Iowa Judiciary and was appointed a Senior District Court Judge in 2020.

Judge McGhee directs the Langston Hughes Company of Players, a local minority theatrical troupe that presents the history of African-America through music, dance, and the written word. The group dramatizes the experiences of Black Americans by presenting vignettes from four distinct segments of their history: Slavery, Jim Crow, Harlem Renaissance and modern times. The troupe is made up of approximately 25 members, with six to ten performing in each production.

Judge McGhee is a champion of the regular man. He has spent his life championing causes and issues that will make the average person’s life easier and successful. The above list is only a part of his many accomplishments. He has taken an interest in young minority students and has spent many, many hours working with the youth at his church and also in a multitude of programs including the Polk County Youth Offender’s Program, The Boy’s Scouts, The Salvation Army Basketball Program, and programs in the Des Moines Public School. He is known throughout Iowa for his presentations on the African American Experience. Recently he made presentations at Simpson College, Drake, DMACC, Cornell College, Iowa State University, Valley High School, and at several churches in Des Moines. It is obvious that Judge McGhee takes the needs and the plight of young children seriously.

As central spokesman and counselor to the Committee to Build a Monument to the Founders of the National Bar Association, he worked with federal, state and local officials and private enterprise to erect a $2.1 million dollar national memorial named “The Monumental Journey” and dedicated to the founders of the National Bar Association. The Monument, by nation renowned artist, Kerry James Marshall, was commissioned by Iowa National Bar Association and the Des Moines Public Art Commission. It now stands on the Des Moines Riverwalk at Grand Ave. and 1st Street in Des Moines.

Judge McGhee is married to Jacqueline Easley, an executive director at Mercy Hospitals, and they have two children, Carey and Ty.

Some of McGhee’s Achievements and Awards

  • I.O.W.A. Gertrude Rush Award-2022
  • Cornell College Distinguished Alumni Award-2022
  • Iowa State African American History Award-2021
  • YWCA Making A Difference Award-2021
  • National Bar Association, Distinguished Jurist Award 2021
  • The African American History Museum of Iowa History Maker 2020
  • Iowa African American National Hall of Fame 2019
  • Iowa National Bar Association Man of Achievement 2019
  • IOWA NAACP Spingarn Award For Community Excellence 2018
  • Drake University Law School Hall of Honor 2017
  • Iowa National Bar Association Man of the Year 2016
  • Jack and Jill of America Hero Award 2013
  • NAACP Special Recognition for Achievement Award, 2003
  • I’ll Make Me a World In Iowa Heritage Legacy Award,2005
  • Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans, Lifetime Achievement, 2007
  • Alpha Phi Alpha, Lifetime Award of Merit, 2008
  • Beth El Jacob/Rob Borsellino Community Service Award, 2007
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Midwest Region Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007
  • Iowa State University/ Society of Professional Journalists, “Champion of the First Amendment” 2009
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, 2013
  • Brother to Brother Community Achievement Award, Drake University, 2013

David S. Walker

Drake Law School
Des Moines, Iowa
Making a Difference by Breaking Barriers

David S. Walker is the retired Dwight D. Opperman Distinguished Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Drake Law School, where he twice served as Dean of the Law School, from 1987-1996 and again from 2003-2008, and taught courses in corporate and business law. A graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia Law School, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Iowa and the Executive Committee of the NAACP Des Moines Branch. With his colleague Russell E. Lovell, II, Walker is Co-Chair of the Legal Redress Committee for the Des Moines Branch as well as the State NAACP in Iowa.

Walker is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He has served as Chair of the ISBA Business Law Section, Chair of its Corporate Laws Committee, and Chair of the Section’s Legislative Committee. Since 1992 he has been appointed by successive Iowa Governors to be one of Iowa’s three Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. He has served on several Drafting Committees and is a member of and past Chair of the ABA-ULC Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Unincorporated Organization Acts. He has been the Chair of the Iowa Commission since the year 2000. In that capacity he has sought introduction of, and appeared before Iowa House and Senate Subcommittees on, more than thirty Uniform Acts or amendments to them, in the business, commercial, trust and estate, family law, and other areas.

He has worked with Professor Lovell and NAACP State Conference President Betty Andrews on many initiatives, including anti-racial and ethnic profiling bills introduced in the Legislature; on Unbiased Policing Ordinances adopted by the cities of University Heights, Des Moines, Coralville, and Iowa City; on fair chance for employment (“Ban the Box”) bills; on jury selection and management legislation and best practices set by State Court Administration; the Iowa Governor’s Executive Order restoring the right to vote for persons previously convicted of a felony; revision of selected Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure, including Rule 2.18(5)(a), which now makes eligible for jury service a person previously convicted of a felony if the person’s citizenship rights have been restored; and Fair Cross-Section presentations to State Public Defenders, the State Bar Association, criminal defense lawyers, and the Iowa Judges Association.

On behalf of the NAACP Walker and Lovell have co-authored eight Amicus Curiae Briefs addressing issues in cases before the Iowa Supreme Court. The issues in these cases have included a challenge to the constitutionality of pretextual traffic stops (written in collaboration with the ACLU of Iowa); the constitutional right to an Impartial Jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community served by the trial court; the authority of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to adjudicate complaints in a public hearing, which a private corporation claimed had been ousted by an employee’s arbitration agreement; and the validity of “Ban the Box” ordinances passed at the local level.