Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Hosts 20th Annual Higginbotham Event to Promote Racial Justice, Diversity and Inclusion

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The A. Leon Higginbotham Gala Supports Critical Work to Protect Voting Rights and Advance Racial Justice Across the Nation. This year, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law honors David Abney, Executive Chairman of UPS, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Robert F. Smith, Congresswoman Karen Bass, and Attorney Ben Crump.

2020 Higginbotham Honorees

"Our 2020 Higginbotham Event highlights our fight for racial justice and celebrates champions for justice. Now more than ever, we are focused on safeguarding voting rights and securing civil rights amid an unprecedented pandemic." - Kristen Clarke, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Hosts 20th Annual Gala to Spotlight Movement for Racial Justice on September 17, 2020

Contact: Don Owens,, 202-934-1880

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the nation’s preeminent civil rights organization, will host its 20th annual A. Leon Higginbotham Event on Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 3pm ET. This marquis event highlights the multifaceted work of the Lawyers’ Committee while shining a light on civil rights champions and corporate leaders.

This year, the Lawyers’ Committee honors David Abney, Executive Chairman of UPS, with the 2020 A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award. The Award Event, now in its 20th year, recognizes corporate leaders who embody exemplary practices in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and celebrates civil rights icons.

“For the past 57 years, we have been on the front-lines in the fight to advance racial justice and equality across the nation,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Our A. Leon Higginbotham Event shines a light on our work to advance racial justice, provides an opportunity to highlight corporations that exemplify best practices with respect to diversity and inclusion, and allows us to lift up champions for racial and social justice. We are proud to recognize UPS for their efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. This year, the Higginbotham Event takes on special significance in helping accelerate our work to protect voting rights, advance racial justice and promote equality for Black people following the tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others.”

In addition to honoring Mr. Abney, the event will celebrate the significant contributions of several other notable individuals. Nikole Hannah-Jones will receive the organization’s Beacon of Justice Award for her Pulitzer-winning The 1619 Project, The New York Times Magazine’s groundbreaking exploration of the legacy of Black Americans starting with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619. Ms. Hannah-Jones will discuss The 1619 Project and more with Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist who anchors and produces the Hearst Television political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.”

Robert F. Smith, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, will receive the organization’s Robert F. Kennedy Prize. Smith has helped to recruit and support underrepresented students in STEM fields through scholarships, graduate fellowships and program funding, and recently pledged to pay off student loans for graduating seniors at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will be honored for her distinguished leadership in confronting the current health crisis and addressing the stark impact that the pandemic has had on communities of color. Her calm, compassionate and straightforward approach to addressing concerns around racial violence and police brutality have provided a model for other communities that are similarly wrestling with these issues.

The Honorable Karen Bass will receive the Legacy of Justice Award. Congressmember Bass was re-elected to her fifth term representing the 37th Congressional District in November 2018. Congressmember Bass holds many leadership roles and also serves as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She recently led the effort to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the House.

Attorney Ben Crump has been serving in the pursuit of justice with a passion for advocacy since the beginning of his career. Crump is being recognized with the Lawyers’ Committee’s Trailblazer Award for his tireless dedication to serving and providing legal representation to victims and families impacted by police violence including George Floyd and countless others.

Special guests include Sally Yates, former Deputy Attorney General for the United States and partner in King & Spalding’s Special Matters & Government Investigations practice, Ernest Greer, Co-Director, Greenberg & Traurig LLP, and Hill Harper, award-winning actor, best-selling author, philanthropist, youth advocate and the Lawyers’ Committee’s long-standing National Spokesperson.

Each year, the Higginbotham Awards Gala draws hundreds of lawyers, advocates and leaders from across the nation. This year’s Gala will be broadcast nationally in partnership with Roland S. Martin's #Unfiltered.

The prestigious Higginbotham Corporate Award, named in honor Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., a pioneering civil rights advocate, author and federal appeals court judge, was established in 2000. Past honorees include: Morgan Stanley, PNC Financial Services; The Home Depot; Ernst & Young LLP; Toyota Motor Sales; DuPont; J.P. Morgan Chase Investment Bank; McDonald’s; Aetna Inc.; BellSouth Corporation; Citigroup Inc.; Colgate-Palmolive Company; Fannie Mae; General Electric Company; Microsoft Corporation; The New York Times Company; PepsiCo, Inc.; Qualcomm, Inc.; and Time Warner, Inc.

Please click here to register for the event, and click here to support our movement for racial justice.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to activate lawyers in the fight against racial discrimination. Now in its 57th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law maintains one of the most comprehensive racial justice programs of any organization in the country. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.

For press inquiries or further information, contact: Don Owens,, 202-934-1880.

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