Stacy Leeds and Walter Sutton are set to receive the 2013 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.
The award, which celebrates the accomplishments of lawyers who promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession, will be presented Feb. 9 at the Hilton Anatole during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas.
Leeds is the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Ark.
A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Leeds is the first Native American woman to be a law school dean. The first and only woman to serve as a justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, Leeds is also one of five appointees to the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform. The commission is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s management and administration of nearly $4 billion in American Indian trust funds.
“Stacy Leeds richly deserves the Spirit of Excellence Award because of her commitment to academic and professional development, which continues to inspire multitudes of younger lawyers and law students,” said Reginald Turner, the chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. “She represents what is possible when one is willing to strive and reach for the stars.”
Sutton is the associate general counsel for Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
A trailblazer in diversity, Sutton has transcended racial barriers throughout his career. He was the first African-American to work as a lawyer at both Tenneco Oil Co. and Texas Instruments. He was the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the University of Texas at Dallas. He was the first African-American to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional counsel’s office in Dallas and the Dallas Environmental Health Advisory Committee.
The Dallas Bar Association presented Sutton with the 2012 Martin Luther King Award, which is given to a leader who demonstrates the values and ideals of Dr. King. ABA Past President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson also recognized Dr. Sutton with an ABA Presidential Citation during the association’s 2012 Annual Meeting.
At Wal-Mart, Sutton is responsible for the development and coordination of diversity for its legal department. He also serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Wiley College, a four-year, private, historically black, liberal arts college in Marshall, Texas.
“Walter Sutton epitomizes the values advanced by the Spirit of Excellence Award. His illustrious career has led him all over the country, from corporations to schools to government roles and back,” said Turner.