Judge Fernando Gaitan, Esq., Black Archives executive director Carmaletta Williams and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.

Each year, the UMKC Foundation and Law Alumni Association recognize exceptional alumni and friends of the School of Law with awards for philanthropy, leadership, service to the School of Law and the legal community, and lifetime achievement. Honorees are recognized during The Big Event, which took place last week.

Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. was honored with the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which is awarded to an alumnus who has achieved outstanding professional success in their long legal career.

In 1980, Gaitan was appointed as a trial judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit in Kansas City and soon moved on to the Missouri Court of Appeals-Western District. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed Gaitan as a U S district judge for the Western District. At the time, he was the first Black judge for the Western District and at age 42, was one of the youngest appointees.  He also served as adjunct professor for the UMKC School of Law and served as a trustee of the Law Foundation of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law until he was honored emeritus status.

Dr. Carmaletta Williams, executive director at the Black Archives of Mid-America was awarded with the Alvin Sykes Justice Award, a new award recognizing a non-lawyer who is widely respected for their unrelenting drive for and impact on justice.

The awards committee said Williams exemplifies Sykes’ unrelenting drive for and impact on justice, through her dedication to advancing justice and diversity by educating others about the racial history of America, the Midwest and Kansas City. 

Jazzlyn Johnson

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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