In 2021, at long last, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the United States when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law after unanimous Congressional support.
Rightly so, as the day serves to commemorate one of the most important historic milestones in the history of the United States: the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Today, Juneteenth is a day for honoring the struggles faced by Black men and women across the United States and committing to initiatives that drive forward progress in equity and equality.
That’s why today, Simmons Hanly Conroy is proud to shine a spotlight on Shareholder and Judge Luther W. Simmons (ret.), who has for 40 years supported Americans who have been harmed through no fault of their own with his extensive knowledge of and experience with the law.
Judge Luther W. Simmons’s Commitment to Lifting Up Others
Luther doesn’t just talk about empathy, understanding and fighting for others – he backs it up with action. Indeed, his personal drive to give back to those less fortunate is directly linked to his family and upbringing.
“I am the son of a Tennessee sharecropper and the great-grandson of slaves,” Luther said. “My father, the Rev. Luther T. Simmons, was the first man in the history of our family in America to be paid for his labor.”
Prior to becoming an attorney, Luther co-founded the Philadelphia Committee for College Placement, which helped inner-city Philadelphia high-school students attend college. The Committee placed more than 600 students in colleges and universities across the country, all of them with financial aid packages that enabled them to leave Philadelphia and fulfill their dreams.
Before he was a judge, Luther worked as an in-house counsel and corporate officer for a minority-owned business that became the third-largest minority-owned business in the United States. He later became the first African American public defender in Madison County, IL, representing the interests of the indigent in nearly 1,000 felony cases.
About his work’s purpose, Luther says:
“I’ve been inspired as a lawyer and as a judge to try to make a difference in someone’s life every day. If we do that for individuals whose paths we cross in our daily lives, the aggregate effect will be to uplift our communities.”
As a member of the local community in Alton, IL – where Simmons Hanly Conroy’s main office is located – Luther has served as a mentor for minority youth in the Boys and Girls Club for more than 50 years. The Boys and Girls Club plays an invaluable role in helping young people develop qualities to become responsible citizens and community leaders.
“Public service is giving back to the less fortunate and the underserved, and that is how to advance society,” he said. “Any day that I go to work and feel like I make a difference, no matter how minute, is a great day.”
As part of his efforts to promote equal access to the justice system, Luther has handled more than 2,000 pro-bono cases throughout his legal career.
For all of his efforts to promote equality and justice, Judge Simmons has received numerous awards, including:
- A Community Service Award from the NAACP
- The Presidential Award from the 100 Black Men of Alton
- The Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from New Shining Light
Supporting Black lawyers, Simmons was also invited to serve in a leadership role for The National Black Trial Lawyers Association.
Simmons Hanly Conroy Is Committed to Doing the Work – Today and Every Day
For its part, Simmons Hanly Conroy makes concerted efforts every year in its commitment toward racial justice.
To this end, the firm has:
- Championed Second Chance Sundays, an initiative that aims to help people expunge and/or seal nonviolent offenses from their records, so that they may remove barriers to employment.
- Supported the Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, an organization that prides itself on “breaking barriers to justice” by providing legal services to Illinois residents living in or on the cusp of poverty.
- Donated to causes that support minorities, such as a $10k donation to the Arch City Defenders, which serves to fight back against the criminalization of poverty and state violence, especially in communities of color.
As part of its efforts to support racial justice, it’s important for the firm to recognize that the themes and goals of Juneteenth do not hinge on just a single day – the commitments the day fosters should be reviewed and upheld throughout the entire year.
Above all, as a firm, Simmons Hanly Conroy understands that the work toward racial justice is far from over. There’s still so much we can all do – every single day.
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