HOOPS FOR YOUTH FOUNDATION CONTINUES TO REMEMBER THE LATE JERRIS LEONARD, AN ESTEEMED PUBLIC SERVANT, COLLEAGUE, FRIEND AND ROLE MODEL
Fairfax, VA – The Hoops for Youth Foundation (HFYF) Chairman, Paul Miller, announced today that the Foundation’s Hill Day for Youth program which educates at-risk, young men from the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) about their First Amendment Rights is being named in honor of the late Jerris Leonard. Miller says that “dedicating this program to Jerris continues his life-long commitment to organizations such as HFYF which provide financial support to partners like WJA which addresses the cycle of poverty that plagues local students’ communities through an education model that replaces it with a cycle of hope, determination and success.”
Jerris’ daughter, Kate Leonard, who Chairs the Hill Day for Youth, said “this honor speaks to her father’s long held belief that education is of the utmost importance to breaking down the challenges of poverty. While Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights of the United States serving under President Nixon, I remember my father often saying, ‘You can give people equal rights, but if you don’t also give them equal access to education then you’re stopping short of the goal as education is the key to helping people beat the barriers of poverty.’ I believe that my father’s experience overseeing the federal government’s desegregation of schools while he was Assistant Attorney General deepened his view that equal access to education was the most important way to truly give children a chance at releasing the ruthless grips of poverty for a better life.”
Jerris along with his wife Mariellen and six children moved to Washington DC in 1969 from his beloved home of Wisconsin where he served 12 years in the State Legislature and became Senate Majority Leader. He would then be appointed by President Nixon and confirmed by the US Senate as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. After his dedicated career in public service, Jerris moved into the private sector practicing law and lobbying where he argued 5 cases before the US Supreme Court and represented many notable clients such as Mohammed Ali, the Estate of Howard Hughes and President George H.W. Bush when he was Chairman of the RNC. Upon his death, Jerris was the Chairman of the Leonard Group culminating nearly a 40 year career in both the public and private sectors. Over the years, Jerris was recognized by his peers receiving many awards and honors, including ALL’s Capital Award for Outstanding Contributions to the League, the Lifetime Achievement Award from his Alma Mater, Marquette University Law School, the Belle Case LaFollette Outstanding Professional Award from the Wisconsin Law Foundation and from the State Bar of Wisconsin Nonresident Lawyers Division.
Despite all of Jerris’ professional successes, on a personal level he never lost his well-grounded, mid-western roots and the importance of his faith, family and country. At the time of his death, his good friend, former US Congressman Ralph Hall of TX, paid tribute to Jerris on the floor of the US House of Representatives echoing what many people believed “Jerris was a true statesman who made friends on both sides of the political aisle. His friendships extended well beyond the realm of politics and career, however. He made friends in all walks of life. It is impossible to fully grasp the breadth and depth of a life of someone like Jerris, who gave every project or responsibility his very best effort and who lived his life with boundless enthusiasm and compassion. He was a role model and mentor to so many and he leaves a powerful legacy that will last for generations to come. As we adjourn today, let us do so in tribute to this great American, dedicated public servant and truly great man, Jerris Leonard.”
“Jerris Leonard was a brilliant man who never forgot where he came from. He was larger than life because of his commitment to family and community. I will never forget his willingness to mentor me when I was coming up. I am so pleased to announce that our Hill day efforts have been officially renamed THE JERRIS LEONARD HILL DAY FOR YOUTH. Today we ensure that generations will learn about a man who helped pave the way for their future” Miller added.