ATLANTA — Former President Carter was emotional Thursday as he accepted an award recognizing his appointment of a large number of minority and female judges to the federal bench during his presidency.
The Just the Beginning Foundation honored Carter with its Trailblazer Legend Award in a ceremony at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Three people appointed by Carter spoke before the award was presented. They thanked him for his courage and said he changed the face of the federal judiciary to more accurately reflect the diversity of the country.
“President Carter, by virtue of his core values, had a capacity to identify wrong and a capacity and the courage to correct it,” said Nathaniel Jones, who was appointed by Carter to a federal appeals court position in 1979. He later added, “You have given justice, American justice, a good name around the world.”
The other Carter appointees who spoke were federal appeals court Judge Phyllis Kravitch and federal district court Judge Horace Ward. As the country’s 39th president, Carter appointed 57 minority judges and 41 female judges to the federal judiciary, more than all previous presidents combined.
“I’m really overwhelmed and embarrassed,” Carter said.
“The credit doesn’t go to me,” he said. “It goes to the performance of the people I was honored to appoint.”
The Just the Beginning Foundation is a nonprofit organization formed as a pipeline for students from underrepresented groups in middle school through law school to encourage them to go into the legal field. Its name is drawn from a speech Carter gave 20 years ago at a gathering of federal judges to celebrate the integration of the federal judiciary on the occasion of the retirement of the first black U.S. district court judge.
Carter said at the time that his appointment of so many minority and female judges was “just a beginning.” At Thursday’s event, he said the country still has a long way to go toward achieving true equality of treatment for all people.