“Perspective compels me to tell you that what I did could not have been done without the aid of others,” said the Honorable Murray M. Schwartz, retired chief judge for the United States District Court in Delaware, as he accepted the first Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Award during a special program in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom on Friday, February 12th. Judge Schwartz made a particular point of thanking his wife, Sara Lu, and his long-time secretary, Joan Armstrong, asking each of them to stand and be recognized.
Widener Law Dean Linda L. Ammons
welcomed a sizable audience of students, faculty, and staff, as well as family and friends of Judge Schwartz, to the event, saying, “We have an incredible panel of speakers to honor a truly remarkable man.”
The program featured four distinguished speakers, beginning with the Honorable Thomas L. Ambro of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who said, “The greatness in large measure was Murray’s innate ability to balance the facts and honor simple justice.” Ambro also noted that Judge Schwartz had the “quiet grace to act courageously when out of step with public sentiment.”
Drewry Nash Fennell, Esq., Executive Director of the Delaware ACLU, spoke next, reading a passage from “Choosing Equality: Essays and Narratives on the Desegregation Experience,” a new book on desegregation co-authored by Louis L. Redding Chair and Professor of Law & Public Policy at the University of Delaware Leland Ware and Widener Law Professor Robert L. Hayman Jr
., who was instrumental in putting the event together.
Villanova Law School Professor Catherine J. Lanctot, who clerked for Judge Schwartz, told a story about Judge Schwartz showing her the bulletproof vest he had been given by the FBI after receiving death threats over his role in New Castle County school desegregation in the late 1970s. “I’m not a cynic about our justice system ad I’m not a cynic about judges because of Murray Schwartz,” she concluded. Professor Ware spoke last, discussing the current state of Delaware schools and the work still to be done before equality can truly be achieved.
Professor Hayman and Dr. Sydney Howe-Barksdale
, Director of Widener Law’s Public Interest Resource Center
, then spoke briefly about the beginning of the 4th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service before Professor John G. Culhane
, Chair of the Diversity and Accommodation Committee, presented Judge Schwartz with the first Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Award. After showing Judge Schwartz the plaque that will bear his name as the first award recipient, Professor Culhane presented him with a commemorative clock.
The program concluded after remarks from Judge Schwartz, who told the law students in the audience, “You are in a position to make a difference.” Judge Schwartz received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd at the conclusion of his remarks.