The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund celebrated its 25th annual National Equal Justice Award Dinner (NEJAD) last night in New York City. More than 700 guests were in attendance.
The event raised nearly $2.5 million dollar for LDF's mission and programs. Clarence Otis, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Darden Restaurants accepted this year's National Equal Justice Award from William M. Lewis, Jr., Co-Chairman of Investment Banking at Lazard and a Co-Chair Emeritus of LDF's Board of Directors. Eric J. Friedman, Executive Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP accepted LDF's Inaugural Law Firm of the Year Award from Raymond J. McGuire, Head of Global Banking at Citgroup and a long-time LDF friend and supporter. Theodore V. Wells, Jr., Partner and Co-Chair of Litigation at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP was honored with the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. He was introduced by Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Senior Managing Director at Lazard, a member of LDF's Board of Directors, and the 2009 Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Angela Vallot, one of LDF's newest Board Members served as the Dinner Chair. Gabriella Morris, also a member of LDF's Board of Directors, and Dr. Lydia Mallett, Vice President Global Talent Selection & Talent Movement, served as Vice Chairs. View photos of the event here  and here .
During the dinner John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel, briefly discussed LDF's recent victories and the challenges that lie ahead, and paid tribute to the late Derrick Bell, the law school professor whose work and writings inspired legions of law students over the last four decades. Bell, an LDF attorney in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was the last LDF attorney hired by Thurgood Marshall before he was appointed to the federal bench.
The event also included a short film that featured a selection of LDF's distinguished former attorneys, including,