September 18, 2017

American Bar Association announces 2018 Spirit of Excellence Award honorees

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2017 —  The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession announced today the four honorees of its 2018 Spirit of Excellence Award for their commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The Spirit of Excellence Award celebrates the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who work to promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession. The awards are presented to lawyers who excel in their professional settings; who personify excellence on the national, state, or local level; and who have demonstrated a commitment to racial and ethnic diversity in law.

“One of the ABA’s preeminent goals is eliminating bias and enhancing diversity in the association, the legal profession and the justice system,” commission chair Will Gunn said. “These honorees have distinguished themselves in various spheres of the profession — corporate America, the military, public service and the judiciary.  The common denominator is that they all fully embrace diversity and inclusion and each of them has helped provide opportunities for others while distinguishing themselves in their legal careers.”

The ABA Spirit of Excellence Award Luncheon will be held Saturday, Feb. 3, from noon to 2 p.m. PT at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The 2018 award recipients are:

Alan N. Braverman, senior executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of The Walt Disney Company since 2003. As the company’s chief legal officer, Braverman oversees its team of attorneys responsible for all aspects of Disney’s legal affairs around the world. He previously served as executive vice president and general counsel for Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., and deputy general counsel for Disney. Prior to joining Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., he was a partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where he started in 1976. He specialized in complex commercial and administrative litigation. Braverman also was a law clerk for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas W. Pomeroy, Jr. Braverman, a Boston native, earned his J.D. degree from Duquesne University. Click here for photo.

Major General (Ret.) Kenneth D. Gray, a native of McDowell County, W. Va., was the first African-American general in the history of the active Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.  He received his B.A. degree in political science from West Virginia State College in 1966 and was commissioned a second lieutenant from the Reserve Officers Training Corps. In 1969, he received his J.D. from West Virginia University’s College of Law, where he was the only African-American student for the entire three years he attended.  After law school, Gray served on active duty in the JAG Corps and eventually became the Army Deputy Judge Advocate General.  He is a graduate of the Judge Advocate General’s School Basic and Advanced Courses at the University of Virginia, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Gray graduated with honors from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.  Following his military career, Gray served as vice president for student affairs at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Click here for photo.

Heather Kendall-Miller, an Alaska Native (Athabascan), is a senior staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Anchorage. Kendall-Miller is a graduate of Harvard Law School and has dedicated her career to public service.  She was a law clerk at the Alaska Supreme Court and then served as a Skadden Fellow, where she worked as a staff attorney for the Alaska Legal Services Corporation representing indigent clients in court and in administrative hearings. During the second year of her fellowship, she worked for the Native American Rights Fund, where she continues her groundbreaking work. With more than 25 years practicing in federal and state courts, Kendall-Miller has established foundational legal principles protecting Native American subsistence, tribal sovereignty and human rights. Her activities outside the law include board memberships with the ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, the Wilderness Society, the Alaska Native Justice Center, the Social Justice Fund, the Honoring Nations Governing Board and the Conservation Foundation. In addition, she serves on the Alaska Supreme Court Committee on Fairness and Access to the Judicial System and as liaison to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Click here for photo.

Judge James A. Wynn, Jr., serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.  Wynn was nominated for the bench by President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously in 2010.  Prior to his appointment, Wynn served for 20 years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of North Carolina. He received his J.D. from Marquette University School of Law and an LL.M. in Judicial Process from the University of Virginia School of Law. Wynn’s legal career began in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps, where he served for four years on active duty and 26 years in the reserves.  He was a Certified Military Trial Judge and retired at the rank of captain. Before becoming a state appellate judge in 1990, Wynn was a litigator in the law firm of Fitch, Butterfield & Wynn in Wilson, N.C.  He currently serves on the Marquette University Board of Trustees and is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University School of Law. Wynn is one of the drafters of the 2007 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct. He recently was appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to serve on the Judicial Conference’s Information Technology Committee. Click here for photo.

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. The commission 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 promotes the recruitment, hiring, promotion and advancement of attorneys of color and works to ensure equal membership and employment opportunities for diverse lawyers in the ABA. The commission accomplishes all this through many initiatives, activities and programs, including the annual Spirit of Excellence Award.

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