William R. Laws Human Rights Award

The Human Rights Commission seeks 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.

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

2023 Laws Award information coming soon.

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


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.

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, Laura Leonard, Sondra Bolte, Benjamin “Mickey” King, and J. Irwin Miller.

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) Leonard
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
2020 — No award given (due to Covid-19 pandemic)
2021 — No award given (due to Covid-19 pandemic)
2022 — No award given (due to Covid-19 pandemic)