Walter J. Leonard, former assistant dean at the Harvard Law School and presently special assistant to President Bok, has received the annual National Bar Association's (NBA) President's Award for service in legal education and increasing the number of black lawyers.
At the annual convention in Miami two weeks ago NBA President James W. Cobb praised Leonard for his "commitment to the training of legal scholars...(Leonard) has done as much as anyone to increase the number of minority-group lawyers and to project and enhance the true history and image of the black and non-traditional lawyer."
Leonard would not point to a specific achievement leading to the award:
"The whole question of race relations is an amorphous one. I cannot give a summary of how one alters such a multifaceted situation. Racism is not a wart on a hand that you can cut off and expect to be gone."
However, he feels his efforts to "project the image of black lawyers, increase the number of black lawyers, and enhance the opportunities available to minority students in the law," was the basis for his receiving the award.
A 1958 graduate of Howard University Law School, Leonard came to Harvard in 1969 to become assistant dean at the Law School. In July 1971, he was appointed special assistant to the President for Minority Affairs.
Leonard claimed that while he was at the Law School he helped to increase the number of black students there from less than 100 to 150. In October 1970 he organized a symposium at the Law School on "The Black Lawyer in America Today." He is also chairman of the American Law Schools Standing Committee on Minority Groups.
The NBA, an organization of black lawyers, was formed 47 years ago because the American Bar Association "did not admit lack lawyers for many years," according to Leonard.