GPDC Director Omotayo Alli Receives Rep. John Lewis Lifetime Achievement Award

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ATLANTA – Georgia Public Defender Council Executive Director Omotayo Alli received the John Robert Lewis Lifetime Achievement Award during the 39th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Tribute at the Georgia State Capitol.

The event included remarks by Governor Brian P. Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, and Speaker of the House Jon Burns. Kemp also personally congratulated Ms. Alli for her recognition.

Named for the civil rights leader and seventeen-term Congressman from Georgia, the award Alli received is given annually to an extraordinary public servant in recognition of their career-long commitment to support equality and education for all. Alli’s award cited her for working “tirelessly to enhance indigent defense services, preparing GPDC for the emerging needs of clients, communities, and 21st Century courts.”

Among the other accomplishments by Alli since being appointed director of the GPDC by Governor Kemp in 2020 cited in her award :

  • prioritizing front line trial-level services,
  • addressing underlying factors precipitating court involvement,
  • enshrining pay equity between prosecutors and public defenders for the first time in Georgia’s history,
  • launching a one-of-a-kind special mitigation team,
  • opening eight regional conflict offices, and
  • beginning monthly traveling training sessions for GPDC attorneys, investigators, and legal staff in offices throughout Georgia.

Director Alli also created the Ladders Program to help young adults achieve following incarceration. The 12-month leadership initiative provides youth from 16 – 24 with transformational education and resources to bring about an increase in reconnected family units and a reduction in recidivism throughout the state of Georgia.

“I am extremely honored and humbled by this award,” Alli said following the event. “The first thing that came to mind was a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about a subject most close to my heart. ‘I said to my children, I’m going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of god’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.’ It has been a guiding beacon for my life.”

“I am reminded of how Representative Lewis paraphrased another of Dr. King’s quotes by saying. ‘The moral arc of the universe will bend toward justice – but only if we pull it.’ And pulling for justice is what our lawyers, investigators, and other resolute professionals do every day. I’m so proud of them. They are the ones who really deserve this award.”

As executive director Alli supervises 800 employees of The Georgia Public Defender Council which provides legal representation to 85 percent of all persons charged with crimes by the state of Georgia. The GPDC, created by the Georgia Indigent Defense Act of 2003, ensures, independent of political considerations or private interests, that each person whose cause has been entrusted to a circuit public defender receives zealous, adequate, effective, timely, and ethical legal representation, consistent with the guarantees of the Constitution of the State of Georgia, and the Constitution of the United States.

Four other Georgians also received recognitions at the event from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council which was created in 2011 by the Georgia General Assembly to promote the legacy and nonviolent principles of Dr. King. They are:

Ariel Shaw who received the Rita Jackson Samuels Award, named in honor of the trailblazing equal rights advocate and businesswoman, given annually to an exceptional individual or organization in recognition of their commitment to empowering women in business and in the community.

LaDonna Hampton who received the Andrew J. Young Humanitarian Award, named in honor of the former Atlanta Mayor, Congressman and Ambassador to the United Nations, given annually to a remarkable individual or organization in recognition of their pursuit of universal human rights and social justice.

Bishop Reginald Jackson who received the Dr. Joseph E. Lowery Civil Rights Award, named in honor of the iconic minister and founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, given annually to an outstanding individual or organization in recognition of their unwavering advocacy for leadership development in the fight for civil rights.

And for the first time in the event’s history a second John Lewis award was given to Former Georgia Representative Calvin Smyre.

Smyre’s award cited him for his achievements as a business executive, state legislator, community, and national leader, and being nominated for ambassadorship on behalf of the United States. As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1974 until 2022 Smyre authored legislation changing the state flag and making Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a state holiday.

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