By Sierra Blanchard-Hodge
For Roderic V.O. Boggs, recipient of our Presidents’ Award for Public Service, 1971 was a big year. That was the year when Rod became Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. And it was also the year that he helped to launch our own organization, Washington Council of Lawyers. In the decades since then, our legal community has enjoyed the fruits of Rod’s labor.
First, there is Rod’s leadership of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right and Urban Affairs. As its Executive Director for the last forty-four years, Rod has developed and expanded the organization’s work in employment, fair housing, immigrant and refugee rights, disability rights, prisoners’ rights, public accommodations, and public education. Under his guidance, the organization has grown from a two-lawyer operation to a committee with over twenty-five dedicated staff members and a network of hundreds of pro bono attorneys who offer free legal assistance and handle hundreds of cases. Along with his administrative guidance to the Committee, Rod has served as counsel in many cases surrounding areas of civil rights practice. These cases have been tried in federal courts, and some of the issues raised have been argued before U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Second, there is Rod’s work in founding Washington Council of Lawyers, the only public interest bar association in Washington, DC. At the time of our founding, public interest law and pro bono service were not priorities for most of the DC legal community; we were at the forefront of encouraging lawyers to serve those in need and work to expand access to justice. After helping to start Washington Council of Lawyers, Rod served on our board of directors for many years, and now is a member of our Honorary Board. We would not have been able to develop and grow as an organization without Rod’s skill and devotion.
Asked about Rod’s influence on civil rights and access to justice, one of our veteran board members explained:
Rod Boggs has been a zealous and vigorous advocate for civil rights for nearly 50 years. Rod was a founder of the Washington Council of Lawyers when there was not a voice for the public interest community and pro bono in our bar. His efforts created a home for attorneys interested in these issues. In addition, Rod has built the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs into a formidable force to tackle the cutting edge civil rights issues of the day. Rod has boundless energy and enthusiasm for promoting civil rights and has transformed our community.
We are grateful for all that Rod has done and continues to do, and for the chance to work with him so closely over the years. We are especially proud to give him our 2015 Presidents’ Award for Public Service.