By ANNE L. MERCER
The Friends of the Law Library of Congress on April 13 presented the 1999 Wickersham Award for "exceptional public service and dedication to the legal profession" to former Sen. George J. Mitchell.
In the Great Hall of the Supreme Court, Sen. Mitchell was recognized for his illustrious career as a lawyer in government and private practice, as a federal judge, as the Democratic senator from Maine from 1980 to 1995 (majority leader in 1989-95) and as a special adviser to the president as chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.
"It is wonderful to be able to celebrate the professional excellence of an outstanding citizen, George Mitchell," said Law Librarian Rubens Medina. "We are dedicating this evening to him because he has dedicated so much of himself and his career to serving his country."
Following dinner, hosted by Gail Littlejohn, senior vice president for government affairs of Lexis-Nexis, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg began the ceremony in the court's chambers by welcoming the group, and Mr. Medina thanked the Friends for their support of the Law Library and its initiatives.
"On behalf of the Law Library staff, I want to state that we feel very fortunate and privileged to be the recipients of this friendship and special status. ... The Friends of the Law Library makes an important contribution to the standing of the Law Library and our profession."
Tributes to Mitchell were offered by three longtime friends. Shephard Lee of Westbrook, Maine, offered reminiscences of their 40 years of friendship. He was followed by Rep. John Baldacci (D-Maine) and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who spoke with humor and sincerity of their experiences working with Mr. Mitchell in Congress. Then Abe Krash, president of the Friends, presented the award, after which Mr. Mitchell spoke of his efforts to obtain the historic accord in Northern Ireland to end decades of conflict between the government of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. The accord was overwhelmingly endorsed by the voters of Ireland in May 1998.
Among those in attendance from the Library of Congress at this year's dinner were Daniel J. Boorstin, Librarian Emeritus, and his wife, Ruth; Dwight D. Opperman, the 1993 Wickersham Award winner, who traveled from Minnesota to help honor this year's winner; executive director of the American Association of Law Libraries, Roger Parent, together with the president of the association, James Heller of the William and Mary School of Law, as well as the president-elect, Robert L. Oakley of the Georgetown University Law Center.
The Law Library of Congress is the largest and most comprehensive source of legal information in the world and a research center for foreign, international and comparative law. The Friends of the Law Library is a national nonprofit group that encourages awareness of and support for the Law Library. The Wickersham Award is named for George Wickersham (1858-1936), who, with other noted jurists, attorneys and scholars, conceived the Friends as a way to help build a great national law library. Wickersham was a partner in the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
Major support for the 1999 Wickersham Award dinner also came from the sponsor, Lexis-Nexis; benefactors FedEx, Philip Morris Cos. Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts and West Group; and patrons Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Dun & Bradstreet, Fannie Mae Foundation, Matthew Bender & Co., the Walt Disney Co. and Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.
For more information about the Friends of the Law Library of Congress or the Wickersham Award, contact Anne L. Mercer, executive director, Friends of the Law Library, at (202) 707-5076.
Ms. Mercer is executive director of the Friends of the Law Library of Congress.