Annual Thurgood Marshall Awards Luncheon

40th-anniversary-awardThe Judicial Council proudly honors judges for their exceptional service and contributions at the Annual Thurgood Marshall Awards Luncheon, which takes place at the Annual NBA Convention & Exhibits.

The five awards presented at the luncheon are named after distinguished judges whose leadership and commitment to service exemplified the mission and values of the Judicial Council.

Nominations for the five awardees are open to all members of the National Bar Association Judicial Council.


2019 Award Recipients

William H. Hastie Award | Hon. Bernette J. Johnson


The Hastie Award is the Judicial Council’s highest award and is presented to recognize excellence in legal and judicial scholarship and demonstrated a commitment to justice under law.

Judge William H. Hastie (1904–1974) served with distinction as a United States District Court Judge for the United States Virgin Islands, Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, Dean of the Howard University Law School and Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Hastie gave the keynote address at the founding congress of the National Bar Association Judicial Council in 1971.

Raymond Pace Alexander Award | Hon. Trina Thompson

The Raymond Pace Alexander Award is presented in recognition of contributions to judicial advocacy and humanity.

Raymond Pace Alexander (1897–1976) established the most successful black law firm in Philadelphia in 1923 and became President of the National Bar Association in 1929. A tireless advocate for Civil Rights, Judge Alexander was a founding member of the National Bar Association Judicial Council and served with distinction as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Pennsylvania.

Thurgood Marshall Award | Hon. Betty E. Staton


The Thurgood Marshall Award is presented to recognize personal contributions and extraordinary commitment to the advancement of civil rights and for being a role model for members of the bench and the bar.

Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993) was the first black person appointed to the United States Supreme Court. A brilliant tactician and a courageous advocate for constitutional principles, Thurgood Marshall was a prime architect of American jurisprudence in the twentieth century. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, he served as Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, as judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and as Solicitor General of the United States.

Sara J. Harper Humanitarian Award | Hon. Piper D. Griffin


The Judicial Council presents the Sara J. Harper Humanitarian Award in recognition of consistent and unselfish contributions to the purposes and goals of the National Bar Association Judicial Council.

Retired Judge Sara J. Harper’s (1926– ) career of firsts include: the first African-American woman to graduate from Case Western Reserve University Law School; the first woman to serve on the judiciary of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve; one of the first two women to win seats on the Ohio Court of Appeals (1990); the first African-American justice for the Ohio Supreme Court (1992); and co-founder of the country’s first victims’ rights program. Ever-mindful of her community, she served as president of Cleveland’s NAACP, and established the Sara J Harper Children’s Library at the Outhwaite public housing estates, to inspire young minds. Judge Harper’s service and contributions have been recognized with numerous awards including Ohio Supreme Court’s Excellent Judicial Service Award, the NAACP’s Unsung Heroine Award, and Raymond Pace Alexander Award.

George W. Crockett, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award | Hon. Arthur L. Burnett, Sr.


The George W. Crockett, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes work and service spanning a substantial career tenure in public and/or judicial service.

George William Crockett Jr. (1909–1997) provided over 65 years of public service— serving as the first African-American attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor, National Vice-President of the National Lawyers Guild, Chief Judge in Michigan’s Recorder’s Court and United States Congressman (Michigan). Judge Crockett was an active member of several caucuses and committees including the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Study Group, the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues,  the Congressional Arts Caucus, the House Judiciary Committee, the Select Committee on Aging, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Crockett was also a well-known civil rights activist, tackling issues in the U.S., in pursuit of fair practices and representation, and abroad, including seeking to end apartheid in South Africa.

A. Leon Higginbotham Award | Justice Audrey B. Collins


The A. Leon Higginbotham Award is presented in recognition of judicial excellence and an outstanding commitment to the achievement of justice and equality.

Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. (1928-1998), a prominent lawyer and scholar, served as Chief Judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A “survivor of segregation”, Higginbotham was a courageous advocate of integration and civil rights. He was a recipient of the coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. A prolific writer, Higginbotham authored more than 100 legal articles and published an acclaimed treatise on the legal history of race in the United States.