March 23, 2012
Georgia State University's College of Law honored prominent health law attorney and GSU faculty fellow Randall L. Hughes with the 19th Ben F. Johnson Jr. Public Service Award in a ceremony on March 22.
The award is presented annually to a Georgia attorney whose accomplishments reflect the tradition of selfless public service exemplified by Ben F. Johnson Jr., founding dean of the College of Law, throughout his career and life.
"My father would be truly proud that we are here tonight and that Randy is the recipient of this award," Ben F. Johnson III said in his opening remarks to the audience.
Colleagues and friends joined Johnson in paying tribute to Hughes before the crowd of more than 200 people, citing his humility, inspired leadership, generosity in mentoring others and commitment to public service.
"The thing about Randy is, he has been not just a volunteer, but kind of a poster child for volunteering," said Steve Gottlieb, executive director of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and 2009 Johnson Award winner. "He talks about it with a kind of pride that makes other people want to do it."
Hughes began volunteering with Atlanta Legal Aid as a "Saturday lawyer" nearly 40 years ago while practicing in the law firm of Powell Goldstein, now Bryan Cave LLP. Since then, he has served on the board and as president of Atlanta Legal Aid, volunteered with the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights and provided pro bono services for the statewide Seniors Legal Hotline, among other activities. The Atlanta Falcons honored Hughes with a 2011 Community Quarterback Award in recognition of his work with Atlanta Legal Aid.
Hughes, who retired from full-time private practice in 2008, has played an integral role in the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic at the College of Law. This collaboration among the GSU Center for Law, Health and Society, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Atlanta Legal Aid provides legal services to low-income children and families served by Children's hospitals.
GSU colleague Charity Scott recruited him to teach a health law regulation while he was still practicing full-time. She told the audience that, by her calculation using his regular billable rate, he racked up $156,000 worth of hours preparing for his first class. This, she said, was "selfless public service of the highest order."
In addition to Gottlieb and Scott, friend and fellow attorney John T. Marshall spoke about Hughes during the celebration held in the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom.
As Hughes accepted the award, he began with a disclaimer: "It’s difficult to picture myself in the company of others who have received this award," Hughes. "You can see why I was inspired by these folks."
After acknowledging the friends, family members, colleagues, mentors and others who have "encouraged, supported and tolerated" him through the years, and noting the many local law firms and legal organizations doing pro bono work in the community, he addressed the challenges of time and funding facing Atlanta's public service legal organizations.
"Awards are about the past; challenges are about the future," Hughes said. "We will be challenged to promote justice for all. If you can volunteer or give, you are needed. It is my honest hope that we will rise to meet that challenge."