Professor Awarded National Medal

A Kennedy School professor was named Monday as one of 12 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

President Clinton will present the medal to Public Service Professor of jurisprudence and Lecturer on Law A. Leon Higginbotham it, at a White House ceremony on September 28.

Higginbotham said in an interview yesterday that he was honored to be named a Medal recipient.

"Anyone who receives an award like this has to be surprised," he said. "It's not something you get up in the morning and expect to come forth. But I'm pleased to receive it."

Higginbotham is receiving the medal for his work in the area of civil rights.

In a statement released by the White House this week, staffers lauded Higginbotham, saying that he has "worked tirelessly to advance the needs of those who have long been denied access to the American Dream...to ensure that our nation honors its promises of freedom and equality."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom will boost Higginbotham's already-impressive record of 60 honorary degrees, including degrees from Princeton, Yale, Amherst, Williams, Dartmouth, Boston College, Northeastern and Suffolk, as well as several national and international awards.

Last year, Higginbotham served as an international mediator during the elections in South Africa and received the Spirit of Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award.

The professor says he has never sought public commendation for his work.

"I have always sought to improve the quality of justice in our nation and world without any expectation of public recognition," he said in a statement released Monday by the Kennedy School of Government.

Higginbotham is currently chief counsel for Congressional Representative Cleo Fields in the Louisiana congressional redistricting case.

He will teach three courses at Harvard this spring: Race and the American Legal Process in the Afro-American Studies department; Race, Gender and the American Legal Process at the Kennedy School; and Voting and the American Legal Process at the Law School.

Higginbotham's wife, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, is Professor of Afro-American Studies and Professor of African American Religious History at the Divinity School