Legal Legends of Color Honored

The seventh installment of the Legal Legends of Color Award was presented on Thursday, June 23, at the 2022 NCBA Annual Meeting in Winston-Salem. The awards are presented annually by the Legal Legends of Color Subcommittee of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession Committee.

This year’s honorees are attorneys Margaret Dudley, Georgia Jacquez Lewis and Arlinda F. Locklear, and the late Judge Ola M. Lewis who was honored posthumously.

Timaura Barfield and Gwendolyn W. Lewis served as chairs of the Legal Legends of Color Subcommittee, which also included Sharita Whitaker, Jessica Major, Tawanda Foster Artis and Jeremy Locklear. The subcommittee administered the selection process and the awards ceremony, which included closing remarks from NCBA President Jon Heyl and NCBA President-elect Clayton Morgan.

Biographical materials for each of this year’s inductees were presented in the event program as follows:

Judge Ola M. Lewis
Judge Ola M. Lewis earned her undergraduate degree at Fayetteville State University before earning her Juris Doctor from North Carolina Central Law School in 1990. In 1991, she began private practice with Dan Blue, the first African-American Speaker of the House in North Carolina. After private practice, she joined the Brunswick County district attorney’s office from 1991 to 1993.

Judge Lewis was appointed as a District Court judge in May 1993 at the age of 28, making her the youngest serving judge in North Carolina at that time. After service on the bench for seven years, Governor Jim Hunt appointed Judge Lewis to serve as a special Superior Court judge in July 2000. Six years later, in 2006, Judge Lewis became the senior resident Superior Court judge for Judicial District 13B. During her time as a judge, she helped establish the drug treatment court in her district, which helped hundreds of residents find sobriety and reduced inmate population and costs. In 2017, she established the Brunswick County Opioid Addiction Task Force and through this work encouraged Governor Roy Cooper to declare the opioid addiction crisis a statewide public health emergency.

In 2018, Governor Roy Cooper awarded Judge Lewis the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for her many accomplishments. Judge Lewis remained on the bench until she passed away in 2019 at only 54 years old, after a two-year battle with a rare form of liver cancer. In her 19 years on the Superior Court bench, she served as special Superior Court judge, resident Superior Court judge and senior resident Superior Court judge. Judge Lewis is the longest serving female judge in the history of North Carolina. In November 2020, the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution renaming the Brunswick County Courthouse in Judge Lewis’ honor.

Margaret Dudley
Attorney Margaret Dudley is a native North Carolinian. She graduated from Mather School in Beaufort, South Carolina, and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., for both undergraduate and law school. Following graduation from Howard University School of Law in 1974, Attorney Dudley became the third Black woman to practice law in Guilford County and the first Black woman to hold the position of Deputy County Attorney in Guilford County. In her capacity as the Deputy County Attorney, she worked closely with the County Attorney in advising the Board of County Commissioners, the County Manager, and the heads of various departments.

During her tenure with the county, she had the responsibility of representing the Department of Social Services, the Personnel Department, the Guilford County Planning Board, the Register of Deeds Office, the Guilford County Child Support Enforcement Office, the Board of Adjustment, and the Guilford County Mental Health Department. She was also Counsel to the Guilford County Board of Adjustment as well as the Mental Health and Social Services Board. Thereafter, Attorney Dudley achieved success as a partner at a private firm in Guilford County, and in 1994, she set out as a solo practitioner. Her practice has focused on civil litigation with an emphasis on family law.

Attorney Dudley has practiced at all levels of the North Carolina Court System. In addition, Attorney Dudley taught Constitutional Law at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University for 22 years. In January 2017, Attorney Dudley joined Elon Law’s Emergency Legal Services Program as the founding director. The program, which works in conjunction with the Family Justice Centers of Guilford County and Alamance County, seeks to drastically reduce gaps and unmet needs for legal advocacy and support for victims of domestic violence. In the last five years, Attorney Dudley has assisted nearly 5,000 people who were in crisis.

Attorney Dudley is a member of the Guilford County Association of Black Lawyers and the Greensboro Bar Association. She has served on several community and civic boards including, but not limited to, the United Way, Legal Aid, Guilford County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Board, the Guilford County Board of Adjustment, YWCA, and Hayes Taylor YWCA. She is also a member of the legal committee of the Alliance for Hope International, the flagship organization for Family Justice Centers. Further, Attorney Dudley is a member of the Greensboro Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has served the sorority at the local, regional, and national levels. She is also a member of the Danville, Virginia, chapter of The Links, Inc.

Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, left, accepts award on behalf of her mother, Georgia Jacquez Lewis.

Georgia Jacquez Lewis
Throughout her life, Attorney Georgia Lewis has been a fierce advocate for the rights of women and minorities. Raised in humble surroundings, Attorney Lewis began her pioneering work as a social worker in New Mexico in the 1950s and later continued her many years of professional, public and community service in North Carolina, where she moved with her husband, pharmacist Robert L. Lewis.

A mother of five (to Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, Monica Lewis Allison, Denice Lewis, Robyn Lewis-Gallick, Robert Lewis), Attorney Lewis deferred her graduate education until her children were out of the home and, at the age of 53, enrolled at and earned her law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Attorney Lewis became North Carolina’s first Hispanic judicial official, serving as a civil and criminal magistrate in Mecklenburg County, as well as the first Hispanic to serve on a board of elections in North Carolina, ultimately serving as chair of the Mecklenburg County BOE.

In private practice, Attorney Lewis worked as a lawyer for the Charlotte Catholic Diocese, represented immigrants in refugee cases, advocated for the homeless, fought to protect the franchise for minority voters, and championed fair-pricing on prescriptions for consumers. She also organized and led bar organizations at the local, state and national levels to promote and protect the interests of Hispanic clients in North Carolina and provide networking and pipeline opportunities for Latino lawyers.

Attorney Lewis served as a regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, was the catalyst for the creation of the Hispanic Latino Lawyers Committee. She was also a co-founder of the Mecklenburg County Hispanic Latino Lawyers Bar. In addition to her legal work, Attorney Lewis founded the Emerging Latina Leadership Advocates, a local organization dedicated to helping Latina women (including lawyers) attain leadership positions in their communities. She has received many honors at the local, state and national level, and most recently was honored by the Mecklenburg County Bar as its diversity champion.

Arlinda F. Locklear
Arlinda F. Locklear earned her law degree from Duke University School of Law and is a member of the Maryland, North Carolina, and District of Columbia bars. She holds honorary doctorates from State University of New York Oneonta, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and the College of Charleston. She has focused her practice on Federal Indian Law from the start of her career and is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

Ms. Locklear began practicing as an attorney at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colorado, and later transferred to the Washington, D.C., office. She was directing attorney for seven years of the firm’s Washington office. In 1987, Ms. Locklear left the firm and continued to represent only Indian tribes as a solo practitioner. During her 40 years of practice, Ms. Locklear has represented tribes throughout the country in federal and state courts on treaty claims to water and land, taxation disputes with states and local authorities, reservation boundary issues and federal recognition of tribes. Ms. Locklear’s representation of tribes spans all levels of federal courts throughout the country, including the United States Supreme Court. In her first matter before the Supreme Court in 1984, Ms. Locklear made history as the first Native American woman to appear before the court. She is nationally recognized as an expert in federal recognition of tribes and Indian land claims.

In acknowledgement of her tremendous career, Ms. Locklear has received multiple awards, including the 2009 Distinguished Alumna Award from the College of Charleston, the 2012 Margaret Brent Award given by the American Bar Association, and the 2015 Lawrence Baca Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section.

Former Inductees
Previous recipients of the NCBA Minorities in the Profession Committee’s Legal Legends of Color Award, accompanied by current or former titles, are:

Chief Justice Henry E. Frye
Attorney James E. (Fergie) Ferguson II
Chief Justice Cheri Lynn Beasley

Judge Albert Diaz
Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson
Professor Irving Joyner

Judge Shirley Fulton
Judge Paul Jones
Attorney Glenn Adams
Attorney Victor Boone

Professor Charles Daye
U.S. Attorney Janice McKenzie Cole
Legislator H. M. (Mickey) Michaux Jr.
Judge Sammie Chess
Attorney Julius Chambers (posthumously)

Judge Yvonne Mims Evans
Attorney Anthony Fox
Attorney J. Kenneth Lee (posthumously)
Senator Dan T. Blue Jr.
Dean George R. Johnson Jr.

Judge Elreta Melton Alexander (posthumously)
Attorney Karen Bethea-Shields
Judge Wanda G. Bryant
Professor James E. Coleman, Jr.
Attorney Julian Pierce (posthumously)