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Black Student Association Will Honor Bernice Donald with Holmon Award

For release: January 20, 2011
For press information, contact Linda Hall, 901-678-2054

Judge Bernice Donald
Judge Bernice Donald
The University of Memphis Black Student Association will honor Judge Bernice Donald with the Authur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Michael D. Rose Theatre. A reception will follow. Both events are free and open to the public.

President Barack Obama recently nominated Donald for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.  Donald has served as a judge for more than 28 years, 15 of them presiding over the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. 

After graduating from law school, Donald worked as a sole practitioner before accepting a position as a staff attorney at Memphis Area Legal Services, where she provided legal assistance to low-income individuals. In 1981 she joined the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office.

In 1982 Donald was elected to serve as a judge on the Shelby County General Sessions Court, making her the first female African-American judge in the history of Tennessee. In 1988, she was elevated to the judgeship of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Tennessee, becoming the first female African-American federal bankruptcy judge in the nation.  She was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1995 for the District Court bench.

Donald currently serves as secretary of the American Bar Association.

A native of DeSoto County, she was one of the first black students to attend Olive Branch High School. Donald graduated from the U of M in 1974 and from the U of M’s Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1979. 

The Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 1991 to honor Memphians whose lives exemplify outstanding dedication to the Memphis community and who are a constant reminder to today’s students that hard work and dedication are true keys to success. The award was renamed the Authur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 in honor of a longtime University of Memphis administrator.

The award ceremony will open the University’s month-long celebration of Black History Month. More information is available from Linda Hall, Multicultural Affairs coordinator, at 901-678-2054.

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