National Law Journal: Washington Lawyers’ Committee Leader Steps Down After 45 Years.

Even after nearly half a century of service for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Rod Boggs isn't quite ready to step down.

The departing executive director of 45 years described the job as his "calling" from the start.

"I tell you, it's a dream job," Boggs said in an interview with The National Law Journal. "I'm the luckiest guy you could imagine."

Boggs, 75 , plans to stay involved with the committee and serve in a senior advisory role, helping the new director, Jonathan Smith, the former executive director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, whenever he can.

Boggs joined the Washington Lawyers' Committee (WLC) as executive director in 1971, and he has since dedicated his career to fighting for the civil rights of those facing discrimination; working on pro bono cases, specifically focusing on housing and employment discrimination based on race or gender; and prison and public education reform. Boggs is not related to Tommy Boggs, the well-known Washington lobbyist who died in 2014.

The WLC served as counsel or co-counsel on major civil rights cases, such as Runyon v. McCrary in 1976, a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a racially discriminatory policy at a private nursery school.

Boggs said it would be "impossible" to name any one initiative over the course of his long career as more important than another, but did divulge that public education is an area of deep interest to him.

He also noted the WLC's challenge in the 1970s against the District of Columbia's application of drugs laws. With strong pro-bono support, the WLC advocated for heroin addiction to be seen as a public health issue affecting those arrested for drug possession charges. He added that he looks forward to the WLC expanding to take on more LGBT equality issues in the future as well.

Boggs, a 1966 Columbia Law School grad, spent a year working for the Ford Foundation in Tanzania in 1967 followed by a year as district representative for Rep. Allard Lowenstein in New York before he joined the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in 1969. When he began as executive director of the WLC, he was the third executive director of the then two-person staff.

Established in 1968, the WLC is a nonprofit organization that provides pro-bono legal services to the District of Columbia to fight against discrimination and the cycle of poverty. Projects have included Equal Employment Opportunity, fair housing, immigrant rights, disability rights, prisoner rights and public education. The WLC currently has a docket of more than 100 cases.

In honor of his service, the WLC awarded Boggs the annual Wiley A. Branton Award this year at a luncheon on Wednesday at the JW Marriott Hotel. Branton was the principal lawyer behind the desegregation of public schools in Little Rock in 1957.The luncheon also featured remarks Jennifer Levy, co-chairwoman of the WLC, and a reading of a letter from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser congratulating Boggs for his service.

"Are you guys ready for the Gatorade?" asked James Robertson, a longtime friend of Boggs and former co-chairman of the WLC, as he handed Boggs the award, prompting Boggs to shake the award above his head like a World Series trophy.

Wishful thinking, perhaps? Boggs had served as captain of the WLC's softball team when it went up against Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) and Covington & Burling.Jokes aside, Boggs said that he had never thought of doing anything else besides civil rights law.

"Let's put it this way, I'm a lot better director of the Lawyers' Committee than I am a baseball player," he said.

Another former co-chair of the WLC, Ted Howard, who spoke at the event, credited the existence of the WLC to Boggs, ribbing Boggs that he is "persistent to the point of annoyance." He also praised Boggs for teaching him three important lessons: ask clients what they want, let others have the credit and keep the faith.

Boggs said that he looks forward to spending his free time with his grandchildren and watching Smith lead the next generation of young lawyers take over the WLC.

Contact Suzanne Monyak at sumonyak@alm.com. On Twitter: @SuzanneMonyak.

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