Spirit of Justice Award Winners 2010

The honorees in 2010 were:

The Honorable Jimmie Edwards

Judge Edwards is a circuit judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit in Missouri who was appointed to the bench in 1992. He was appointed to the Juvenile Division on January 1, 2007, and became Chief Judge of the St. Louis City Family Court in 2008. In the time that he has been at the Juvenile Court, Judge Edwards had made a significant impact in the lives of children in this community, as well as the community at large. In his role as Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court, he has improved the processing of child abuse and neglect cases by assigning a Deputy Juvenile Officer, responsible to the court, to every case; implemented time standards to ensure swift case processing of juvenile delinquency cases; and initiated other programs, including the Simon Foundation Transitions Program in partnership with MERS Goodwill. This program assist juveniles in obtaining a G.E.D. or a high school diploma, then places them in job settings.

In August 2009, in collaboration with Dr. Lewis Chartock of MERS Goodwill and Dr. Kelvin Adams, Superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools, Judge Edwards opened Innovative Concept Academy (ICA), a school to specifically address the needs of troubled students. ICA provides educational instruction with firmness, compassion, dignity and respect to students who have been expelled from regular schools or who have been disruptive in the classroom. ICA offers students a last chance for the education every child deserves to become a productive citizen and to realize their potential in life.

The Honorable Andrew Jackson Higgins (Deceased)

Born in Platte City, Missouri in 1921, Judge Andrew Jackson Higgins graduated from Washington University School of Law. His career has led him to a variety of roles. He was the prosecuting attorney and a mayor in Platte County, a Circuit Judge, and served on the Missouri Supreme Court as a Commissioner, Judge and the Chief Justice. Judge Higgins retired as Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court in 1987, and until his death in 2011 was Of Counsel to the law firm of Inglish & Monaco in Jefferson City. Well known for his dedication to children’s justice, he provided support and leadership to Missouri Bar projects that have resulted in adoptions of modifications of Supreme Court Rules on Continuing Legal Education, Substance Abuse Intervention, and Child Support Awards. He also secured organization of the Missouri Supreme Court Task Force on Permanency Planning for Abused and Neglected Children and served as the group’s Chair until his retirement. Finally, working directly with the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association, Judge Higgins led the effort to secure the adoption of Supreme Court Rule 111.03 establishing standards for the operation of juvenile detention facilities and removal of children from adult jail detention.


Kids Voting Missouri, Sandra I. Diamond, Director

Kids Voting Missouri is a local affiliate of Kids Voting USA, a national non-profit, non-partisan program in which students, grades K-12, go to polls with their parents or other adult voters on Election Day and cast ballots for the same candidates and issues as adult voters. In addition to the voting component, the program includes education on democracy, the electoral process, and how to register to vote. The Kids Voting Missouri 2010 schedule includes activities to learn about citizenship, the history of voting, as well as the candidates and issues in the next election. In October, all K-12 students will be asked to practice registering to vote, and students will learn more about candidates and issues appearing on the ballot. When election date arrives, they will also vote. While Citizens Education Clearing House and UMSL support Kids Voting Missouri, the program is almost 100-percent externally funded through public and private grants and gifts.


Mary Delach Leonard

Mary Delach Leonard, is a veteran and well respected journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Ms. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communication from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she currently serves as an adjunct faculty member. Her work at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was cited for awards by such organizations as the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association, and the Illinois Press Association. Most recently, Ms. Leonard’s series on facing the mortgage crisis not only alerted the populace to all angles of the growing problem of foreclosures, but offered readers solutions for mortgage restructuring and kept them aware of other options for assistance so they might keep their homes.


Northwest Academy of Law, Valerie Carter Thomas, Principal

Created in 2005, the Northwest Academy of Law is a “school of choice” magnet-type school in the St. Louis City Public School System. As its name suggest, the Academy is an alternative high school with a specific focus on the legal profession. The curriculum is designed with this in mind, as well as college preparation, concentrating on writing, public speaking, debate and basic knowledge of the law. In addition to law-related classes, the school offers internships through the St. Louis Circuit Court where participants are able to shadow judges, prosecutors, sheriff’s deputies and jury coordinators. Interestingly, this school is not just for aspiring lawyers. In fact, many of the school’s first students picked Northwest simply because it was close to their home, and never even considered becoming a lawyer. However, many of the school’s first graduates (a class of 75 who graduated in June of this year), are planning on attending college. Furthermore, while a handful of students are planning on attending law school, a fair share also plan on pursuing law-related careers including law enforcement. No doubt this career trajectory has been nurtured by the Northeast Academy of Law curriculum; students are quick to mention a new direction and focus along with overcoming challenges and considering new options for their future.

Eddie Roth

Mr. Roth’s career path has taken some unusual twists and turns from law clerk to litigator, a journalist on a beat, and today a respected editorial writer. It has been a journey marked by an apparent desire to share and communicate ideas and knowledge and, in so doing, keep the public better informed. His interests span community organizing and problem solving, public safety, urban planning and governance, education, judicial administration and social issues. He has previously received the Inland Press Associations “New Frontier Award” for Best Online Commentary 2007; Ohio Society of Professional Journalists’ Best Editorial Writer, Online, 2007; the Best of Cox Newspapers Award for Editorial Writing 2003, 2004 and 2005; and the Best Editorial Writer, 2004 from the Associate Press Society of Ohio.


Police Athletic League, Lt. Col. Gregory Hawkins (Retired)

PAL is a volunteer-based program that provides low-cost athletic, educational and cultural programs to area children. There is no cost for these children to participate, and all equipment, uniforms, league fees, registration, and insurance fees are provided and paid for by PAL. As such, the organization is positioned to provide a positive and constructive environment through sports for children to grow and develop. There are 85 PAL-sponsored teams in a variety of sports including basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, weightlifting, street hockey, track and field, and cheerleading. Eligible children must have satisfactory grades and attendance, and not be involved in criminal or delinquent behavior. The premise of PAL is two-fold and simple. The first aim of the program is to get children active and involved in sports so they are not out on the streets. The program’s motto is “We fill playgrounds, not prisons.” With each sport and activity having a police volunteer involved, PAL’s second goal is to have children grow to respect police officers in the community. The reasoning behind this is that if children grow to respect police officers in a gym or on a field, they will grow to respect officers and the laws they enforce.

Dr. Donald M. Suggs

Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Donald M. Suggs attended public schools and went on to graduate with B.S. and D.D.S. degrees from Indiana University. He then did his post-graduate work at Washington University Dental School and Homer G. Phillips Hospital. He has served as chief or oral surgery at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and was the first African-American to serve as an associate clinical professor at St. Louis University Dental School. Suggs was a fellow of the American Association of Oral and Maxillo-facial Surgeons and has a limited private practice in his specialty. However, his dedication to community has not taken a back seat to his illustrious dental career. Active in the civil rights movement in the 60’s and 70’s, he served as chairman of the Poor People’s March-On-Washington in 1968. Later, he became founder and chairman of the African Continuum, organized to bring serious non-commercial African-American artistic endeavors to St. Louis. He was a long-time president of the Alexander-Suggs Gallery of African Art based in St. Louis and New York City. He is a founding member of the Center for African Art (now the Museum of African Art in New York City), and is a former member of the board of directors of the Studio Museum Board of Commissioners. Among the long list of community involvement, awards, and leadership posts over the years, Dr. Suggs was the first African-American to serve as president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of St. Louis. His business activities include being president of Arch Concessions and a partner with D&D Concessions and the City Plaza Project. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Harris-Stowe State University, and St. Louis University, and is the recipient of many civic awards.

Video interviews of the honorees are available on YouTube.