On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 social justice organizations, honored Wade Henderson at the 41st annual Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner.
Wade Henderson, who on June 1, 2017, stepped down as president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, has led the nation’s social justice coalition since 1996 in forging consensus and developing strategy to advance major policy priorities regarding civil and human rights.
Under his guidance, The Leadership Conference steered successful campaigns to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act; pass the Help America Vote Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the ADA Amendments Act, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. He played key roles in ensuring the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and U.S. Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.
Wade is the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Professor of Public Interest Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia. Prior to his role with The Leadership Conference, he was the Washington Bureau director of the NAACP, where he directed the organization’s government affairs and national legislative program, and the associate director of the Washington national office of the ACLU. A graduate of Howard University and the Rutgers University School of Law, he is a member of the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and the District of Columbia.
During Wade’s tenure, the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition has grown from 170 to more than 200 member organizations, including the first Muslim and Sikh civil rights groups. He has greatly expanded the footprint of domestic civil and human rights organizations in the global discourse on social justice.
Through his life-long commitment to equality, Wade has made a profound impact on our nation’s journey toward an America as good as its ideals.
The Humphrey Award
The Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award is the social justice community’s highest honor, awarded to outstanding individuals who, “through selfless and devoted service in the cause of equality,” best exemplify the spirit of Hubert H. Humphrey, U.S. vice president, senator and outspoken civil rights pioneer.
Each spring the award is bestowed at the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner. Past recipients include President William Clinton; Senator Patrick Leahy; Senator Tom Harkin; Representative John Lewis; Representative Connie Morella; civil rights champion Dr. Dorothy Height; disability rights advocates Justin Dart, Jr., and Senator Tammy Duckworth; social justice leader Harry Belafonte; human rights advocate Danny Glover; labor leader Dolores Huerta; and fair lending and consumer advocate Martin Eakes, among others. The 2016 honorees were The Honorable Nancy Pelosi and Bryan A. Stevenson.
The annual dinner is the year’s largest gathering of the civil and human rights community—noted for bringing together members of both houses of Congress, officials from the Executive Branch, civil and human rights leaders, business leaders, educators, attorneys, and young people representing the next generation of civil and human rights advocates. More than 1,200 people attend the dinner annually. Known for its celebration of our nation’s diversity and commitment to equality, the event has been called “…the one dinner in Washington, D.C., where everyone has a seat at the table.”
Hubert H. Humphrey
Hubert Humphrey’s deep commitment and dedication to social justice are legendary. He devoted his life to public service in the cause of equality. Elected mayor of Minneapolis in 1945, he quickly ascended to the national political scene. Addressing racial discrimination and anti-Semitism in Minneapolis in 1948, he was responsible for the city enacting the nation’s first municipal fair employment legislation. That same year, amid fierce debate on the direction of civil rights, he delivered a fiery speech at the Democratic National Convention and spurred the Democratic Party to add a civil rights plank to their platform. From 1949-1964, he served from Minnesota as one of the nation’s most distinguished U.S. senators and was pivotal in the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, calling its passage “one of the landmarks of my life.” Elected vice president of the United States in 1964, Hubert Humphrey continued his selfless advocacy for equality in a free, plural and democratic society. In 1971, Humphrey resumed his senatorial career. In 1974, he introduced the ambitious Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and National Growth bill, the first attempt at full employment legislation, which eventually passed after his death in 1978. This final legislative achievement stood as a symbol of Humphrey’s undying commitment to “the humanitarian goals of the New Deal.
As a testament to his exemplary leadership on civil and human rights, the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award was established by The Leadership Conference in 1977.