The PBEye was saddened to hear of the passing of John Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Payton was a lifelong champion for equal rights and justice. Going back to his time at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP*, he embraced pro bono as a critical part of his practice and used his influence to encourage colleagues at the firm to promote pro bono work.
Tributes have come pouring in in his memory, including President Obama:
“A true champion of equality, [Payton] helped protect civil rights in the classroom and at the ballot box. The legal community has lost a legend, and while we mourn John’s passing, we will never forget his courage and fierce opposition to discrimination in all its forms.”
Covington & Burling LLP*‘s Thomas Williamson:
“He was really an exemplar of somebody who was both conscious and imaginative about how you can use the resources of a large law firm to advance the interests of justice and to protect the most needy and vulnerable people in our society.”
PBI‘s own Esther F. Lardent:
“John Payton made his mark in our profession in so many arenas – as a government lawyer, a law firm partner , a bar association president, and a public interest leader. Wherever he worked, he was a force for justice and equality and an inspiration to us all. He will be sorely missed.”
Payton’s legacy will live on through his work and the work of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®