2021 Wade Hampton McCree Jr. Award Virtual Luncheon

The Chapter hosted its annual Wade Hampton McCree Jr. Award Luncheon for the Advancement of Social Justice via Zoom. The nationally recognized McCree Award is given annually to an individual or organization who has made significant contributions to the advancement of social justice. In lieu of mingling in person at the Atheneum Hotel before the program, this year’s luncheon attendees convened in “small group socials” on Zoom for roughly a half an hour. With roughly ten attendees—a mix of lawyers and judges—per Zoom room, the small group setting Bankruptcy Committee Webinar fostered conversation, introductions, and the atmosphere of camaraderie typical of pre-pandemic FBA luncheons. After half an hour of socializing, Chapter President Fred Herrmann launched the program with opening remarks. Chief Judge Denise Page Hood introduced the program’s keynote speaker, Chief Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In an interview-style discussion, Chief Judge Cole entertained questions from Herrmann and Wade McCree Jr.’s grandson, Aaron McCree Lewis of Covington & Burling LLP. Chief Judge Cole reflected on topics ranging from leading the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals through the pandemic to his definition of social justice. In the spirit of the McCree Award, the conversation highlighted Chief Judge Cole’s lifelong vision of law as a vehicle to effect change in society.

That vision has roots in Chief Judge Cole’s childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, surrounded by civil rights leaders who heavily influenced his understanding of justice and the importance of public dialogue to social progress. After Chief Judge Cole’s interview-address, Erica Fitzgerald of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker presented the McCree Award to this year’s recipient: Legal Aid and Defender Association, Inc. President and CEO Nicole Neal Goodson accepted the award on the Association’s behalf. Goodson expressed what an honor it is for Legal Aid and Defender Association, a 501(c)(3) Michigan nonprofit organization based in Detroit, to receive this prestigious award.

Legal Aid and Defender Association serves the Metro Detroit community by offering civil legal services to residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties who cannot afford an attorney. While it has a long and impressive history—it is the oldest provider of free civil legal assistance to low-income Michigan residents—Legal Aid and Defender Association has risen to the challenges of present-day hardships facing the neediest members of our community. Critically, it understands the link between legal issues and broader issues like access to safe and affordable housing, economic stability, and adequate health care. In recent years, it has also offered victim-centered, trauma-informed holistic legal services to survivors of domestic/dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

The McCree Award is named for Judge Wade Hampton McCree Jr., who began his legal career in Detroit after graduating from Harvard Law School. McCree served on the Wayne County Circuit Court and was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the U.S. District Court in 1961. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed McCree to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. McCree accepted an appointment to U.S. Solicitor General by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. After service as Solicitor General, McCree taught at the University of Michigan Law School until his death in 1987. Judge McCree is renowned for his passion for education, service to the legal profession, and service to the Detroit community. Detroit’s forensic collection experts.

Several honored guests attended the McCree Jr. Award Luncheon this year, including members of the McCree family—James McCree, Wade Harper McCree, Karen McCree Harvey, David Lewis, and Aaron McCree Lewis— as well as representatives of three affinity bar associations: Isheeta Patel and Kanika Ferency of the South Asian Bar Association of Michigan, Rita White of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, and Betty Widgeon of the Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan.