Award Ceremonies/Galas

The Henderson Center Galas celebrate major figures in the social justice community who are both activists and visionaries. At the first Gala in September 2006, the Center for Social Justice re-named itself the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice. Judge Henderson's exemplary career was forged from the conviction that the U.S. Constitution belongs to everyone. He was the first black attorney at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He became the only African American judge in the Northern District of California and became its first black Chief Judge in 1990. His work in the South with leaders of the Civil Rights Movement directly impacted civil rights history in America. His example inspires the Center as it provides groundbreaking courses, provocative public interest programming, and relevant research to generations of students and multiple communities. As Mary Louise Frampton, the Center's Director, stated at the first Gala, "Judge Henderson teaches us how to do the hard work of justice with intellectual rigor, personal courage and a profound sense of humanity."  

Gala IV - November 5, 2009

Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice's 10th Anniversary Celebration

Trailblazer for Justice Gala IV: Honoring Eleanor Holmes Norton

San Francisco City Hall
6 p.m. Reception
7 p.m. Dinner & Program






Gala III - October 23, 2008

Trailblazers for Justice Gala III: Honoring Cruz Reynoso

This celebrated Cruz Reynoso (‘58) as the Henderson Center’s 2008 Trailblazer for Justice. Emeritus Professor of Law at UC Davis, former California Supreme Court Justice, and former Director of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), Reynoso is a civil rights icon.  He was honored on this occasion by Judge Henderson, who reminded all those in attendance that it is important “to remember, give thanks, and to celebrate our heroes who have blazed a trail of justice for so many years in so many ways.”  Henderson Center Faculty Director Mary Louise Frampton introduced Reynoso as a man who “never had the wind at his back, who was always walking into the wind, working for justice against the most powerful and entrenched interests, and incessantly under attack.  He was making the path for the rest of us. And instead of resting on his laurels, Cruz is there on that same path today—inspiring and encouraging young social justice lawyers.”

A stunning feature of the evening was the showing of documentary filmmaker Abby Ginzberg‘s preview of her film “Cruz Reynoso:  A Man of All Seasons.” In the film, Reynoso shared with the audience a story of how his mother would always gladly share the family’s limited food with the local homeless.  It was his mother who taught him that “it is our duty to share with those who have less,” an example that has shaped much of his life’s work. 

Other honorees included Boalt alumnus Alegria De La Cruz ’03, the recipient of the third Thelton E. Henderson Social Justice Prize, and Dolores Huerta, recipient of the Social Justice Catalyst Award.

Post-Gala III Conversations with Cruz Reynoso - October 24, 2008

Cruz Reynoso and Hon. Thelton Henderson joined other prominent social justice figures in “Conversations with Cruz Reynoso,” held in Boalt’s Goldberg Room. The morning session, “CRLA Through Four Decades: Challenges to a Social Justice Institution: Then and Now,” featured Alegria de la Cruz, Joel Garcia, and Jose Padilla. The afternoon session, “Revisiting the Rose Bird Era: Lessons Learned from the 1986 California Supreme Court Confirmation Battle,” included Professor Joseph Grodin, former California Supreme Court Justice, and Hon. Thelton E. Henderson.  

Gala II - September 20, 2007

Trailblazers in Justice Gala II: Honoring John Doar

It was a very special evening celebrating the history-making career of John Doar (’49), our 2007 Trailblazer in Justice! As Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Doar accompanied James Meredith as he became the first black man to register at the University of Mississippi, stood down heavily-armed police officers and a group of grieving and angry youth to prevent violence after the assassination of Medgar Evers, and led the prosecution in the trial following the murders of three civil rights workers. A decade later, Doar was Special Counsel to the House of Representatives on the impeachment of President Nixon. These remarkable events were highlighted in the documentary “John Doar: Trailblazer for Justice” by award-winning filmmaker Abby Ginzberg.

We also honored the accomplishments of Christopher Daley (‘01), recipient of the 2007 Thelton E. Henderson Social Justice Prize. Chris launched the Transgender Law Center in 2004 and has led the organization to victories in economic justice, health care access, leadership development, identity recognition, and student and prisoner rights.

Post-Gala II Conversations on Principled Lawyering in Times of Political Crisis - September 21, 2007

Post Gala II Agenda
Speaker Biographies

An historic gathering of Civil Rights Era leaders, including John Doar, Judge Thelton Henderson, Robert Moses, Brian Landsberg (‘62), Roger Wilkins, and Jerome Waldie (‘53). The discussions focused on two arenas: “The Role of the Justice Department in the Civil Rights Movement,” moderated by Robert Cole, and “Impeachment of a President,” moderated by
Abby Ginzberg.



Gala I - September 15, 2006

Renaming as the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice

Capacity Crowd Celebrates Thelton Henderson '62 at Center Renaming

A capacity crowd of more than 600 friends and supporters filled the palatial San Francisco City Hall Rotunda to celebrate the naming of the Center for Social Justice in honor of Judge Thelton E. Henderson '62—a salute to one of Boalt's most revered graduates. Guests paid tribute to the center's work and to Henderson's legendary career as a lawyer, jurist, humanitarian and pioneer in the advancement of civil rights.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom formally welcomed Henderson at the foot of the grand marble staircase, and proclaimed September 15 to be Thelton E. Henderson Day in San Francisco.

Director of the center, Mary Louise Frampton, remarked that Henderson reflects the greatest aspirations of the center. "That's what we train people to do," Frampton said. "To be like Thelton Henderson . . . to break new ground, take risks and be intimately connected in the most human way with the vulnerable among us."

Stephen Reinhardt, justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, introduced Henderson as "simply and plainly the best judge in America."

Henderson, appointed to the federal bench in 1980, is chief judge emeritus of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. His judicial career has been marked by rulings on many of the most contentious issues of recent times, from striking down California's controversial affirmative action initiative to placing the California prison healthcare system under federal control.

Henderson spoke movingly about many of the moments and people that have shaped his career. "We must never forget," he observed, "that while battles are still being won, the struggle is not over."

To mark the inauguration, the Henderson Center awarded the first annual Judge Thelton E. Henderson Social Justice Prize to Tirien Steinbach '99, director of the Decriminalization of Poverty Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center, the community-based component of Boalt's clinical program and one of the foremost poverty law clinics in the country.

View more images from the gala.