Lorenzo Williams JD'77 receives National Bar Association Award for Civil Rights

by Patrick Riedling,

  • Law Alumnus Williams JD '77 Receives National Bar Association Award for Civil Rights
    Law Alumnus Williams JD '77 Named 2016 Heman Sweatt Honoree by the National Bar Association.

The National Bar Association named Willamette University College of Law alumnus Lorenzo Williams JD’77 a 2016 Heman Sweatt Honoree at its national mid-year conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on April 22. The Heman Sweatt Award, named after the African American civil rights activist who played an integral role in the desegregation of higher education, recognizes pioneers who demonstrate concern for human and civil rights.

The Heman Sweatt nominating committee selected Williams as an honoree based on his accomplishments as a litigator, including his landmark settlements and verdicts, and for his dedication to community service and various humanitarian efforts. During his 38 years of legal practice, Williams successfully litigated more than 100 cases with verdicts and/or settlements exceeding $1 million. 

In 1995, a jury awarded Williams and his legal team a record-breaking $500-million verdict against one of the world’s largest funeral chains, The Loewen Group. He obtained a $15-million arbitration award on behalf of an African American computer distributor against computer giant Hewlett Packard. By appointment of a Federal Bankruptcy Court, Williams also successfully represented the Federal Trustee against one of the leading multi-national military aeronautic contractors, Lockheed Martin, resulting in a $10-million settlement. He is also noted for his integral role in a series of police brutality cases, in which citizens were injured and unfairly treated as a result of excessive force used by law enforcement officials.

According to a press release from his firm, Williams was born in Miami, one of seven children who were raised in a household where hard work was valued. His father instilled in him that there are some things in life that could not be compromised. These values focused on hard work, telling the truth, and being an upstanding citizen. Despite never attending college themselves, his parents ensured that each of their seven children earned a college degree.

Williams and his wife of 36 years, Jovita Williams, instilled these very same ideals in their four children: Dr. Rashondia Gaines, who is a dental/clinical professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale; Ayanna Williams, Esq., who practices law in Philadelphia; and twin sons, Akeem Williams JD'11, Esq., who practices law in Portland; and Amar Williams, Esq. who works alongside his father at Gary, Williams, Parenti, Watson & Gary, P.L.L.C.

About Willamette University College of Law

Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship, mentoring and experience. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses, and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today's legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court in downtown Salem, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.