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The American war hero and 30-year ABA leader, General Earl E. Anderson, was awarded the ABA Medal Saturday at the association’s Annual Meeting in Boston. The ABA Medal recognizes exceptionally distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to the cause of American jurisprudence. The ABA Board of Governors chooses the medal’s recipient.
Former ABA President Robert Grey introduced Gen. Anderson and said, “You risked your life for us in time of war and you have dedicated yourself to the rule of law in time of peace.”
Growing up in West Virginia, Gen. Anderson graduated from West Virginia University in 1940 and accepted a second lieutenant’s commission in the Marine Corps. He earned a master’s degree and in 1952 a law degree from George Washington University Law School. During a 35-year career in the Marines, where he became the youngest active-duty Marine ever promoted to the rank of general, he served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
An ABA member for 64 years, Gen. Anderson has served in virtually every leadership position in the association. In the 1980s he became director of the General Practice Division, chair of its Government Lawyers Committee and chair of its federal legislation committee. He was appointed a member of the ABA’s special advisory committee on programs for Public Sector Lawyers, and played a vital role in the division’s formative years. He served on the ABA Board of Governors from 2001-04, where he was a member of the board’s executive committee and chair of the program and planning committee.
At age 95, Gen. Anderson continues to serve as an active member of several ABA sections and divisions and as a member of the ABA House of Delegates.
“You’ve always been there for us because you loved us,” Grey said, and the ABA returned that love with the medal presentation.
“I’m just going to quit while I’m ahead,” an emotional Anderson said, thanking his wife, Jane, for her “love, counsel and constant nurturing” as well as his sons.
Saying “I stand before you today in deep humility,” Gen. Anderson focused his remarks around the themes of sacrifice, freedom and justice.
Speaking about his experience in World War II and in reference to its warriors as “the greatest generation,” Gen. Anderson said, “My generation simply did what it had to do – it played the hand it was dealt.”
Paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Gen. Anderson said that the ABA serves as one of the foremost catalysts in bending the world toward justice. Praising the ABA as an organization that “works tirelessly for freedom and justice,” Gen. Anderson said the ABA’s moral compass is “always, always pointed to true north.”