William R. Laws Human Rights Award

The Human Rights Commission accepts nominations from the public for the William R. Laws Human Rights Award at the beginning of the year.  The recipient will be a member, a group of members from the community, or a community organization who have made a substantial contribution to the community of Columbus in any area(s) of human equality.

The most recent award was presented to Fr. Clem Davis.  Other Laws Award recipients include Sherry Stark, Larry Perkinson, Dr. Marwan Wafa, Ala’a Wafa, Arlette Cooper Tinsley, Lorraine Smith, Gil Palmer, Tom Harmon, Owen Hungerford, Bob Pitman, Tracy Souza, the Heritage Fund’s Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Tim Solso and Joe Loughrey, Sondra Bolte, Benjamin “Mickey” King, and J. Irwin Miller.


The  William R. Laws Human Rights Award began in the early 1980s as the Human Rights Award.  In 1986, William R. Laws received several nominations for his human rights achievements.  After 1986, the Human Rights Award became known as the William R. Laws Human Rights Award.

Nomination Criteria

The nominees for the Award 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 group;

(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; and

(4) using existing means or creating new safeguards to protect the rights of others.

Laws Awards Nominations

For information, call the Human Rights Commission at 812-376-2532 or via email at  humanrights@columbus.in.gov.

Previous Winners:

1985      J. Irwin Miller         (first winner)
1986      Madelynn Smith
1987      Rev. Chas. Sims & Rev. Duff Green
1988      Larry Whaley
1989      Rev. John Bean
1990      Ted Marston
1991      C. William Barton
1992      Richard B. Stoner
1993      No award given this year
1994      Gwen Wiggins,  Mayor Stewart Police Chief Charlie  Imel & Joseph High
1995      Barbara Stewart
1996      Larry Snyder & Barbara Wrighthouse
1997      Audrey Jefferson
1998      Lee Hamilton
1999      Jim Henderson
2000      Benjamin “Mickey” King
2001      Juana O. Watson
2002      Carolyn Lickerman
2003       No award given this year
2004       Mayor Fred Armstrong
2005       Sarah (Kramer) Grey
2006       Eugene Maresca
2007       Laura Hurt
2008       Sondra Bolte
2009       Tim Solso & Joe Loughrey
2010       Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County
2011       Tracy Souza
2012       Bob Pitman
2013       Owen Hungerford
2014       Tom Harmon
2015       Gil Palmer, Lorraine Smith, Arlette Cooper Tinsley
2016       Dr. Marwan Wafa and Ala’a Wafa
2017       Larry Perkinson
2018       Sherry Stark
2019       Fr. Clem Davis