The Columbus Human Rights Commission is pleased to announce Fr. Clement T. Davis (“Fr. Clem”) as the recipient of its 2019 William R. Laws Human Rights Award. Fr. Clem will be honored at the Commission’s Annual Dinner Meeting, which will be held on June 20, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. at The Commons, 300 Washington Street.

During the Commission’s Executive Committee meeting on May 20, the Executive Committee unanimously approved Fr. Clem as this year’s award winner. The Laws Award Nominating Committee, comprised of Commissioners Joy King, Greg Lewis, and Gil Palmer reviewed nominations submitted to the Commission. Several community members collaborated to nominate Fr. Clem for his dedication to improving relationships among all people, increasing sensitivity of different groups towards each other, and addressing barriers faced by those in Columbus who are treated differently due to prejudice.

Fr. Clem is described as an individual “with a clear set of values around justice, nondiscrimination, support for communities of color, and inclusiveness.” The nomination noted that while Fr. Clem was in college in 1963, he joined an interracial community of Benedictine monks during a time when segregation was rampant. After Fr. Clem arrived in Columbus in 1997, he participated in causes that increased sensitivity towards other people and he supported mechanisms to eliminate barriers for individuals, including his request for the expansion of the “Friends of Haiti” mission, his public support for LGBTQ+ individuals in the early 2000s, his advice to private funders to start a program to provide funding opportunities for undocumented students pursuing higher education, and his commitment to learn Spanish in order to provide an inclusive environment for his Spanish-speaking parishioners. Fr. Clem worked closely with prominent members of the Muslim community after a graffiti incident in 2014 in order to increase dialogue and understanding among members in the faith communities. Because of this collaboration, they developed programs such as the In the Spirit of St. Francis and the Sultan, where participants focused on issues of inclusion and justice.

Past recipients of the William R. Laws Human Rights Award include, but are not limited to, Sherry Stark, Larry Perkinson, Dr. Marwan Wafa, Ala’a Wafa, Gil Palmer, Lorraine Smith, Arlette Cooper Tinsley, Tom Harmon, Tracy Souza, Sondra Bolte, the Honorable Mayor Fred Armstrong, Jim Henderson, Ted Marston, and J. Irwin Miller. The criteria states that nominees should have made a significant contribution by doing one or more of the following: (1) improving relationships among all people; (2) increasing the sensitivity of one group toward another; (3) educating people about the barriers or eliminating the barriers facing people of color, women, persons with disabilities, religious minorities, or others who have been treated unequally because of prejudice; or (4) using existing means or creating new safeguards to protect the rights of others.

In addition to the honoring of the William R. Laws Human Rights Award recipient, the Commission will honor the student winners of the 2019 J. Irwin Miller Art and Benjamin M. King Essay Contests. The theme for this year’s art and essay contests was “You Belong in Columbus.” The following students will be recognized at the event:

2019 J. Irwin Miller Art Contest:
Elementary School Division:
Esther Michel, Parkside Elementary School

Middle School Division:
Kate Russell, St. Bartholomew Catholic School

High School Division:
No entries, no winner

2019 Benjamin M. King Essay Contest:
Elementary School Division:
Grace McMahon, St. Bartholomew Catholic School

Middle School Division:
Fareeha Parvin, Central Middle School

High School Division:
Maya Federle, Columbus East High School

Admission to the dinner is by advance ticket purchase. Tickets for the dinner can be purchased for $30.00 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the Human Rights Commission office located in City Hall at 123 Washington Street in Columbus, Indiana or online at Tickets for tables of 8 may be purchased. The deadline for purchasing tickets is Monday, June 17, 2019 at 5:00 p.m.

EARLY TICKET PURCHASE IS RECOMMENDED. When Annual Dinner tickets have sold out, a waiting list will be created in the event of a cancellation. For further information, call (812) 376-2532 or e-mail The Commons is wheelchair accessible. For other accommodations or for financial assistance in purchasing tickets, please contact the Commission in advance