Chief Judge Robert M. Bell to Receive Frederick Douglass Award

ADELPHI, Md. (February 20, 2006) --- The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents will honor Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, on Tuesday, February 21 at 11 a.m. in Westminster Hall at the University of Maryland School of Law. Judge Bell is the 2006 recipient of the board's Frederick Douglass Award for his tradition of fighting for the rights of all people in the spirit of Douglass.

Judge Bell has been Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for 10 years. As a student at Baltimore's Dunbar High School in 1960, he joined a group of fellow students in a sit-in at a segregated restaurant. He was arrested, convicted of trespassing, and fined $10. His appeals went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court where he was represented by Thurgood Marshall. The landmark case Bell v. Maryland overturned de facto segregation in Maryland in 1963.

Shortly after the case, Bell, who suffered from tuberculosis, graduated from Morgan State University. He went on to Harvard Law School where he earned a JD in 1969. That same year, he was admitted to the bar and became the first African-American to practice at the well-known Baltimore law firm of Piper and Marbury.

USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan; Regents Chairman David Nevins; and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President David Ramsay will offer brief remarks. The keynote speaker will be Harry S. Johnson, the first African-American director of the Maryland Bar Association, an alumnus of UMB and partner at Whiteford, Taylor, & Preston. Other speakers at the ceremony include Bell's longtime friend and colleague, Larry Gibson, professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. Gibson's highly-praised photo exhibit on the history of African-American lawyers in Maryland will be on display at Westminster Hall for the event.

Previous recipients of the Frederick Douglass Award have included two former members of the U.S. Congress (Rep. Parren Mitchell and Rep. Kweisi Mfume), U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chair Mary Frances Berry, and Dorothy Height, Chair of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc.

The event will last approximately one hour. A mult box for audio will be provided.

Contact: Liz O'Neill
Phone: 301.445.2719