The Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys

Founders Awards

The Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys established the GABWA Founders Awards in July 2006. These awards recognize GABWA members, community leaders, and organizations who strive to achieve social, political and economic equality for Black people; advocate for positive change on behalf of Black Women and Children; and advocate for inclusion of Black Women regarding laws and policies affecting Black people.


The Leah Ward Sears Award for Distinction in the Profession recognizes a GABWA member who has been practicing at least ten years who, like Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the highest professional and ethical standards, and whose legal career exemplifies excellence in the practice of law. This award recognizes individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of black women in the legal profession.

Prior recipients include:
Teresa Wynn Roseborough
The Hon. Patsy Y. Porter
Allegra Lawrence-Hardy
The Hon. Gail Tusan
Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming
The Hon. Brenda S. Cole
Patrice M. Perkins-Hooker
The Hon. M. Yvette Miller
The Hon. Myra H. Dixon
Paula Frederick
The Honorable Pinkie Toomer
Joy Lampley-Fortson
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
 

GABWA Founder Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears is one of the three founders of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and served as its first president. Chief Justice Sears was the first African-American woman to serve as a Superior Court Judge in Georgia. When appointed by the Governor Zell Miller in February, 1992, she was the first woman and the youngest person ever to serve on the Supreme Court of Georgia. In retaining her appointment as a Supreme Court Justice, Sears became the first woman to win a contested state-wide election in Georgia. In 2005, Justice Sears became the first black woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.


The Barbara A. Harris Award for Service to the Community recognizes a GABWA member who has been practicing at least ten years, whose service to the community extends beyond the practice of law, and who has had a significant impact on the social, political and economic equality of minorities and women. Recipients of this award shall have contributed substantially to programs that provide community uplift and empowerment.

Prior recipients include:
Avarita L. Hanson
Kim E. Anderson
Juanita Baranco
R. Javoyne Hicks White
Dawn M. Jones
Deborah Poole
Suzanne W. Ockleberry
Julie M.T. Walker
Noni Ellison Southall
Bettieanne C. Hart
Sharon Nyota Tucker
Hon. Mary A. Buckner
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
 

GABWA Founder Judge Barbara A. Harris was appointed as the first woman to serve as Chief Judge of Atlanta Municipal Court on June 18, 1992. Judge Harris began serving on the City of Atlanta Municipal Court in May 1982 when she presided over preliminary hearings for felonies and misdemeanors and conducted non-jury trials of offenses under the Atlanta City Code. Prior to her appointment, Judge Harris spent five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in the Civil Division and worked as a law clerk to the late Georgia Supreme Court Justice Charles L. Weltner. In March 2000, Judge Harris created the Atlanta Community Court, a division of the Atlanta Municipal Court that responds to what are known as quality of life crimes: prostitution, disorderly conduct, panhandling, and low-level drug offenses. The Atlanta Community Court, one of the most comprehensive community courts in the country, is committed to the dual principles of restorative justice and rehabilitation.


The Bensonetta Tipton Lane Award for Commitment to the Family recognizes a GABWA member who has been practicing at least ten years and who has used her professional and personal leadership to strengthen the community through family and child-related programs and initiatives, including those that focus on education, domestic violence, health care, child-advocacy, adoption, and other issues impacting the family.

Prior recipients include:
The Hon. Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore
Bernadette Hartfield
Anita Wallace-Thomas
The Hon. Tangela Barrie
Divida Gude
Wanda Andrews
Nora Polk
Karlise Yvette Grier
The Honorable Glenda Hatchett
Tomeika Daniel
Carmen Smith
Michelle Harris Jordan
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
 

GABWA Founder Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane has a long and distinguished record of service on the bench, having served on the Superior Court of Fulton County for over a decade since her appointment in 1995. Prior to that, Lane was a judge on the City Court of Atlanta, serving full-time from 1992 to 1995 and as a pro hac vice judge from 1986 to 1992.  Lane also served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Georgia Department of Medical Assistance from 1992 to 1993. Judge Lane began her legal career in 1976 with The Law Project, a public interest law firm, and thereafter spent nearly a decade from 1982 to 1993 as a solo practitioner practicing employment discrimination and civil rights law. 


The Zenith Award for Distinction in the Profession recognizes an individual from the community-at-large who has achieved a high-level of success in his or her profession; and demonstrated extraordinary service to Black women and children through both professional and personal leadership.

Diane Rowley, M.D.
Karen Elaine Webster Parks
William “Bill” Brennan
Justine Boyd
Renée Lewis Glover
Jackie Parker
Danita Knight
Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein
Teri Plummer McClure
Helene D. Gayle, M.D., M.P.H.
Harold E. Franklin, Jr.
Thomas G. Sampson
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017

The Zenith Award for Service to the Community recognizes a corporation, firm or organization that has demonstrated exceptional leadership in serving the community by taking a leading role in enhancing the welfare, health, education, or political or financial empowerment of minority communities. Recipients of this award shall have promoted the advancement of minorities in their business, industry, or area of specialty and have encouraged others to help raise the public understanding of legal issues affecting minorities, women and children.

Prior recipients include:
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP (For profit)
Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers (AIM)
Alternative Life Paths Program, Inc.
Leadership Institute for Women of Color Attorneys
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough (For-profit)
The Restorative Justice Center
Southern Center for Human Rights
Students Without Mothers
Carrie Steel Pitts Home
Georgia Legal Services Program
Georgia Legal Services Program
Hosea Feed the Hungry
Atlanta Business League
Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB)
Atlanta Bar Association Summer Law Internship Program
2006
2006
2007
2008
2009
2009
2010
2011
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017

The Zenith Award for Political Action was created in 2012 and recognizes an individual who has made a significant impact on the political landscape at the local, state or national level by advancing the political interests of groups that have been historically underserved, such as minorities, women, and children. The recipient of this award shall have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, commitment and dedication to furthering the civil and human rights of these groups through political and legislative advocacy.

Prior recipients include:
House Minority Leader Stacey Y. Abrams
Laverne Lewis Gaskins
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver
Janice L. Mathis
Henrietta Turnquest
Rep. Tyrone Brooks (Ret.)
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017