Wiley A. Branton Award Luncheon

The Wiley A. Branton Award was first bestowed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee in 1989. It takes its name from Wiley A. Branton, Sr., an extraordinary man whose life embodied civil rights advocacy of the highest order.

Each year, approximately 800 to 1,000 attorneys and business leaders attend this event to honor recipients of the Branton Award. This award is presented to members of the legal and civil rights advocacy community whose lifetime efforts exemplify Branton’s deep commitment to pro bono service that is at the heart of the Committee’s mission. 

The 2017 Wiley A. Branton Awards Luncheon was held on June 7, 2017. Links relevant to the 2017 event are listed below:

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Please contact Gregg Kelley, Director of Development & Communications, at (202) 319-1000 x155 or gregg_kelley@washlaw.org for more information.

Wiley A. Branton was a tireless advocate for civil rights and equal justice throughout his entire career—as a private practitioner in Arkansas, a leader of federal agencies in Washington, and a Dean of the Howard University School of Law. The Wiley A. Branton Award is annually bestowed upon members of the legal community whose careers embody a deep and abiding commitment to civil rights and economic justice advocacy.
wiley branton
Dean Branton started his career in private practice in Arkansas in the 1950’s, representing African-American criminal defendants in often racially charged prosecutions. Working with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, he took on some of the most significant civil rights cases in the South, including the representation of the Freedom Riders in Mississippi, who were arrested for desegregating public transportation and public accommodations.

Among his most notable cases was the litigation that desegregated the Little Rock public schools. It was Dean Branton’s injunction that led to President Eisenhower calling out federal troops to escort African-American students to school. From 1962 to 1965, he led the Voter Education Project in Atlanta. During the three years he was at the helm, the project registered more than 600,000 African Americans to vote.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Dean Branton to lead the President’s Council on Equal Opportunity and then to work on the implementation of the Civil Rights Act as special assistant to the United States Attorney General. In 1967, he became executive director of the United Planning Organization, the District of Columbia’s anti-poverty agency. Two years later, he directed the social action program of the Alliance for Labor Action.

From 1978 to 1983, Mr. Branton was dean of Howard University Law School. During his tenure at Howard, he dedicated himself to the training of the next generation of civil rights advocates.

Following Dean Branton’s death in 1988, his friend Justice Thurgood Marshall remembered him as a great man who “believed in people and believed in what was right.’’

Wiley Branton was an inspiration to everyone who had the privilege of knowing and working with him. He personified the legal profession’s ideal of pro bono service that is at the heart of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s missionThe Wiley A. Branton Award was first bestowed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee in 1989. It takes its name from Wiley A. Branton, Sr., an extraordinary man whose life embodied civil rights advocacy of the highest order.

Wiley A. Branton Award Recipients

2017 Former Attorney General
Eric Holder, Jr.
Speaker
Congressman John Lewis
2016 Roderic V.O. Boggs
2015 Theodore Howard
John Relman
2014

James J. Sandman
Nkechi Taifa

2013

Judge John Ferren
Judge Ricardo Urbina

2012

Thomas Brunner
Avis Buchanan
Joseph Sellers

2011

Kim Keenan
George Ruttinger

2010

Congressman John Conyers
John C. Keeney

2009

Congressman John Lewis
Benjamin F. Wilson
Speaker:
Attorney General
Eric Holder, Jr.

2008 – 40th Anniversary

David J. Cynamon
Leslie M. Turner

2007

Anastasia D. Kelly
Thomas S. Williamson, Jr.

2006 Marc L. Fleischaker
Roger Wilkins
2005 Judge Nathaniel R. Jones
Roger E. Warin
2004 Stuart J. Land
John A. Payton, Jr.
2003 Patricia M. Wald
2002

Janet Reno
Dick Thornburgh

2001 David & Florence Isbell
2000

Peter Edelman
Rev. John O. Peterson
Speaker:
Mayor Anthony Williams

1999

Drew S. Days
Jane Lang

1998

No award presented

1997 Judge Charles Richey
Speaker:
First Lady Hillary Clinton
1996

Rev. James Macdonell
William R. Tisdale

1995 Judge Aubrey A. Robinson
1994 Robert H. Kapp
1993

John E. Nolan, Jr.
Vincent E. Reed

1992

Pedro Avilés
Stephen Pollak
Iris J. Toyer

1991

Roscoe N. Nix
Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.

1990

Judge William B. Bryant
Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer

1989

Robert L. Wald

1988

Distinguished Service Award:
Judge Spottswood W. Robinson

John W. Douglas

1987

Distinguished Service Award:
Wiley A. Branton, Sr.
Albert E. Arent



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