2008 Recipient

You are here

Where presented : 
NLADA Annual Conference
Recipient(s) name: 
Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr.
Recipient title: 
Executive Director
Recipient organization: 
Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland
Recipient organization city: 
Recipient organization state: 
Reason for selection of recipient(s): 

The 2008 Denison Ray Award recipient is Wilhelm H. Joseph Jr. This award, given biennially, honors an individual who has provided exceptional service to the legal aid community as a staff member, client board member or volunteer of a provider program. The “Denny” is named for a career legal aid activist who served as executive director of legal services programs in Missouri, Maine, North Carolina and New York and was a long-time leader of the Project Advisory Group.

Joseph, who has served as the executive director of the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland since 1996, has had a legendary career in the legal aid field. It was his personal struggles during the civil rights era that led him toward his career in legal aid. While a student, he became the national director for the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council, which gave him national prominence and a broader understanding of the hurdles the equal justice movement faced.

His career leading up to his current position in Maryland started in 1974, when he began working as a staff attorney and administrator at North Mississippi Rural Legal Services (NMRLS) in Oxford, where he was promoted to executive director in 1975. Joseph remained with NMRLS until 1982, when he accepted a position with Legal Services for New York City, and became director of the legal support unit. During his tenure at the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland, he has increased the budget from $8 million to $22 million annually, allowing him to reinvigorate their programs, add new goals and serve additional clients. Joseph has also served in the forefront in the movement to create a national civil Gideon mandate, which would make it mandatory for legal aid to be provided to individuals whose basic quality of life is threatened.

“Wilhelm is a visionary,” said Lillian Johnson, executive director of Community Legal Services in Arizona, in her letter of support for Joseph’s nomination. “He advocated for recognition of a ‘civil right to counsel in civil matters’ many years before the ABA and other national groups adopted it. He has been a leader in his support for recruitment and retention of diverse and well-trained legal aid advocates for the delivery of high quality legal services to the poor.”

For his tireless dedication and outstanding achievements in the struggle to ensure justice for all, we honor William H. Joseph, Jr.