Walter Sutton, associate general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., will receive the 2013 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.
The award, which celebrates the accomplishments of lawyers who promote a more racially and ethnically diverse legal profession, will be presented Feb. 9 at the Hilton Anatole during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas.
A trailblazer in diversity, Sutton has transcended racial barriers throughout his career. He was the first African-American to work as a lawyer at both Tenneco Oil Co. and Texas Instruments. He was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas. He was the first African-American to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional counsel's office in Dallas and the Dallas Environmental Health Advisory Committee.
The Dallas Bar Association presented Dr. Sutton with the 2012 Martin Luther King Award, which is given to a leader who demonstrates the values and ideals of Dr. King. ABA Past President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson also recognized Dr. Sutton with an ABA Presidential Citation during the association's 2012 Annual Meeting.
At Wal-Mart, Sutton is responsible for the development and coordination of diversity for its legal department. He also serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Wiley College, a four-year, private, historically black, liberal arts college in Marshall, Texas.
"Walter Sutton epitomizes the values advanced by the Spirit of Excellence Award. His illustrious career has led him all over the country, from corporations to schools to government roles and back," said Reginald Turner, the chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.
"At every step, he has taken care to perform with professionalism, diligence and collegiality, and to advocate for diversity and inclusion with tremendous effectiveness," Turner added. "Walter has secured his place in history as a champion of equal opportunities in our noble profession. He continues to mentor and inspire young lawyers and law students who are certain to follow in his path."