Civil Rights Group Honors Dole Holder and Murphy

first_imgLaura Murphy, Eric Holder and Bob Dole (right) were honored at the 39th Annual Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Awards Dinner. (Photo by Rob Roberts).Former ACLU Washington Director Laura Murphy, the recently retired U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and former Sen. Robert Dole were the 2015 honorees at the 39th Annual Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Awards Dinner on May 13. The event was held at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the dinner’s sponsor, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that the work of the honorees is needed now more than ever.“We have major national problems to solve,” Henderson said. “On nearly every indicator that we use to measure progress, people of color, low-income people, and other marginalized groups are falling further behind and, in many ways, doing worse than they were in 1960. Our schools are more segregated, our levels of unemployment are at an all-time high, we faced continued discrimination in voting and employment, and our incarceration rates have increased exponentially.”The dinner is named after Humphrey, U.S. vice president from 1965-1969 and senator representing Minnesota from 1949-1964 and 1971-1978. Humphrey was a strong advocate for civil and human rights and played key roles in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.Murphy was lauded by many speakers as one “who looks like Bambi but bites like Jaws.” Former Minnesota State Sen. Mee Moua, the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, introduced Murphy to the audience as “my role model, confidant and friend.”“When I grow up I want to be just like you,” Moua said.Murphy, a descendant of AFRO founder John H. Murphy Sr., is a native of Baltimore. She has worked for U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, and in the administration of D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.As the chief lobbyist for the ACLU, Murphy spearheaded efforts in the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act, the 1982 and 2007 extension of the Voting Rights Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act. She has also been outspoken on issues such as the rights of citizens’ post-9/11 attacks and immigration reform.Murphy, joined at the event by members of her family including prominent Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy, said that as a child, her family discussed the issues of the day at the dinner table.“We [my siblings] were expected to know the news and especially what was in the family newspaper, the AFRO,” Murphy said.Murphy thanked her former ACLU staff members and encouraged them to be zealous in the fight for civil and human rights. “Let’s carry on,” she said.Pulitzer-prize winning author Taylor Branch introduced Holder calling him “an attorney general in the tradition of Robert Kennedy.”Holder, replaced by the first Black female U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch, said, “[The] Justice Department is in good hands.”Noting his achievements in fair sentencing, defending voting rights laws, fighting state discrimination laws and standing for marriage equality, Holder said “that if you got a better Justice Department, show me.”“This has been a Justice Department that has been unafraid to act,” he said.Dole was presented by Sheila Bair, former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and a former staffer for the senator. Dole said that he supported every major piece of civil and voting rights legislation, as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday bill, while serving on Capitol Hill.“I believe if you are a citizen of this country, you should vote in this country,” he said.Ivan Thornton, Ballou Senior High School junior member of its nationally-renowned band, attended the dinner with director, Darrell Watson, and some of his colleagues. Ivan said that he was glad he came to the event.“This is magnificent,” Ivan said. “All of us are in awe of the people who are here and what is going on. This is opening my eyes to a lot more stuff than what we see going on in Southeast.last_img

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