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68 Graduate Mid-Year on a ''Bright'' Day

Sixty eight seniors, along with families and friends, filled Phelps Stokes Chapel, Dec. 7, for Berea College’s annual Recognition Service for Mid-Year graduates. The seniors who took part are expected to complete degree requirements by February 2009.

Stephen Bright

Distinguished Human rights lawyer Stephen B. Bright, a University of Kentucky graduate and Kentucky native, was the speaker. Bright also was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Berea.

Stephen Bright is the President of the Southern Center for Human Rights, located in Atlanta. The Center provides legal representation to individuals facing the death penalty and to prisoners challenging inhumane conditions in prisons and jails throughout the South. Many of those facing these situations do not have the resources for adequate and fair legal representation. The Center also works to improve judicial independence in our legal system through better access to lawyers by poor people accused of crimes. Bright has been associated with the Center for much of his career, serving as Director from 1982 to 2005 and becoming President in 2006. He also is the J. Skelly Wright Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and Visiting Lecturer in Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

A native of Danville, Ky., Bright earned his B.A. in political science from the University of Kentucky and Juris Doctorate degree from the UK College of Law. During more than 30 years of law practice, first as legal services attorney with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Lexington and later as a public defender in Washington, D.C., Bright has represented indigent persons at trial, on appeals and in post-conviction proceedings, including many facing death penalty charges. In 1988, he argued and won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to set aside a death sentence due to proven racial discrimination in the process. Bright has also testified many times before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on legal issues and fair representation, as well as several state legislatures.

Awards to Bright for his service include the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998; the Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty presented in 1991 by the American Civil Liberties Union; the Kutak-Dodds Prize, presented in 1992 by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and honorary degrees from Northeastern, Emory, the University of Louisville and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bright has been honored by the University of Kentucky several times. In 1998, the UK College of Law Alumni Association presented Bright the Henry R. Heyburn Public Service Award. In 2000, he was inducted into the College of Law’s Alumni Hall of Fame and in 2006, he was made a member of the UK College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

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