T he 1999 Spirit of Excellence Awards Luncheon provided a dramatic window into the legal history of the diverse peoples of America. The outstanding lawyers honored this year were Gilbert F. Casellas, president and chief operating officer of The Swarthmore Group, an investment and financial advisory firm; the late Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., public service professor of jurisprudence at Harvard University and counsel to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; the Honorable Gary Locke, governor of Washington State; and F. Browning Pipestem, senior attorney, F. Browning Pipestem & Associates. Judge Higginbotham, who was honored posthumously, was represented by his son, Kenneth Higginbotham, and his cousin, Michael Higginbotham, who gave moving tributes in his memory. The remaining Spirit of Excellence Award winners told stories of triumph over segregation, prejudice, institutional racism, and other pressures. These personal testimonials were compelling, encouraging, and educational for all attendees.
The Spirit of Excellence Corporate Award was presented to Guy Rounsaville, Jr., former general counsel and corporate secretary of Wells Fargo & Company and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Mr. Rounsaville was one of the founders of the California Minority Counsel Program, which was established to provide greater access to opportunities for minorities in the legal profession. The Spirit of Excellence Inspiration Award was presented to Elaine R. Jones, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation’s oldest organization fighting for equal rights under the law.
The ABA Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession established the Spirit of Excellence Award to celebrate the achievements of minority lawyers. The award recognizes their contributions to the legal profession and society. Each of the recipients personify excellence in the profession and has made significant contributions to the advancement of racial and ethnic diversity in the profession. The Award’s motto is, "Ad Astra Per Aspera—To the Stars through Difficulty."
Nominations are now open for the Year 2000 Spirit of Excellence Awards. Nomination forms are available from the Commission on Minorities staff in Chicago. Nomination forms must be received on or before August 15, 1999. Award recipients will be selected September 1, 1999.
Ms. Lillie is vice-chair of the ABA Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession.
1999 Spirit of Excellence Award Winners: Gov. Gary Locke, Elaine Jones, Gilbert Casellas, Guy Rounsaville, Jr., F. Browning Pipestem, and Kenneth Higginbotham and Michael Higginbotham accepting for the late Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham
|Elaine Jones and Commissioner Richard Mulroy |
|Commission Vice Chair Charisse Lillie, Kenneth Higginbotham and Michael Higginbotham |
|F. Browning Pipestem |
|Commission Liaisons Patrick Thompson, Connye Y. Harper, Karen Jackson Vaughn and Larry Smith|
Commissioner Teresa Lai, Gilbert Casellas, and Commissioner Alison Nelson