Last week, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund honored Judge U. W. Clemon with the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing him for his monumental civil rights career. Judge Clemon, a retired U.S District Judge who now serves as Mehri & Skalet Of Counsel, was honored along with other honorees at this year’s LDF National Equal Justice Awards Dinner, the Fund’s 32nd annual award ceremony.
Quoting LDF founder Thurgood Marshall, the evening’s theme addressed the difficulty and urgency of this moment:
“It’s a democracy if we can keep it. And in order to keep it you can’t stand still. You must move. And if you don’t move, they’ll run over you.”
The night’s attendees included such civil rights luminaries as Hamilton breakout star Renee Elise Goldsberry, Mehri & Skalet co-founder Cyrus Mehri and filmmaker Crystal McCrary. Judge Clemon’s fellow award recipients included Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman and Equal Justice Initiative Director Bryan Stevenson.
“In the years since I retired from the bench, Mehri & Skalet has afforded me invaluable opportunities and assistance in our joint unending mission to find justice in our times,” said Judge Clemon.
In his acceptance speech Judge Clemon said: “In the last half century, we have seen our great nation move mightily towards a brave and daring new world. A nation where justice, equality and opportunity are the order of the day…But there has been an equal and opposite reaction in high and low places. A few decades ago we thought that certain bedrock civil rights/constitutional principles had been firmly established. Today they are swaying on the scaffold, dangling in the wind. The equal protection clause is fast becoming more of a sword for those who have than a shield for those who have not.”
Judge Clemon’s career in civil rights law spanned five decades and always included challenging the status quo — as a student activist at Miles College in 1962 he fought against segregation and marched with Dr. King the following year. In 1969, he sued for desegregation of the University of Alabama’s football team, going up against the notorious Coach Paul Bear Bryant.
The now-retired judge served as trial judge during Lilly Ledbetter’s successful trial against Goodyear. He was the first African-American elected to the Alabama State Senate since Reconstruction, and was Alabama’s first Black federal judge. After three decades of service, Judge Clemon retired from the bench in 2009, and joined Mehri & Skalet in 2017.
We wish Judge Clemon congratulations on his well-deserved accolades, and thank him for his lifetime of service to his community and our country.
More information about the LDF National Equal Justice Awards can be found here and more information on Judge Clemon can be found on Mehri & Skalet’s website at https://findjustice.com/archives/serv ice/JudgeClemon/.
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