The honorees with BLSA students, from left: Nicole Tobin, Sarah Elerson, Alisia Ford, Judge Hightower, Jesse C. Wineberry, Jacqualyne Walker, Emmanuel Augustin, and James Johnson.
BLSA honors founding members Hightower and Wineberry
In 1980, Judith Hightower ’83 and Jesse C. Wineberry ’86 worked with other African-American law students to start the School of Law’s first Black American Law Students Association (BALSA). At the first meeting, students unanimously elected Wineberry as their first BALSA President. Hightower served as the organization’s first treasurer.
The chapter provided a support system for black law students and hosted the university’s first western regional Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition. In 1981, BLSA hosted an elegant reception to honor the then five African-American sitting judges in Washington State, effectively announcing to the entire law school and legal communities that BALSA (now BLSA) was here to stay.
Thirty years later, the School of Law is proud to honor the two founders – who have gone on to accomplished careers. Seattle Municipal Court Judge Judith Hightower received the Alumni Award, and Jesse C. Wineberry received the Leadership Award at the Fourth Annual BLSA Alumni Awards Reception in early February.
Judge Hightower has been a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Seattle for 19 years and is a leader in the Access to Justice movement. Wineberry is a former state legislator and Internet entrepreneur.
Judge Hightower has a passion for access to justice issues and has been a member of the Access to Justice Board’s Education Committee. A former Advisory Board member of the Seattle University School of Law's Access to Justice Institute (ATJI), in 2006 she was honored with the institute’s Award of Distinction for Public Service. Before becoming a judge, she worked as a criminal defense attorney representing indigent defendants and was also given the responsibility of supervising misdemeanor attorneys in her law firm.
She chairs the Washington Judicial College Trustees Committee and is a member of the State Bar’s Public Legal Education Council. She has participated in Judges in the Classroom Program, the Urban Peoples Law School and regularly speaks at schools and in the community about the law and legal profession. Judge Hightower also is a former member of the law school’s alumni board.
In 2009, Judge Hightower was honored as the WSBA Access to Justice Board Judge of the Year and, in 2008, received the National Black Prosecutor’s Association's Thurgood Marshall Justice Award.
After co-founding BLSA, in 1982 Mr. Wineberry was selected by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to serve in Washington, D.C. as a Congressional Fellow on the U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Consumer Protection and Finance. There he helped write the famous United States vs. AT&T opinion which broke up the century-old AT&T monopoly and paved the way for unprecedented competition in the long distance and wireless industries.
In 1984, while still a law student, Mr. Wineberry was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives. He served in the legislature for a decade from 1985-1995 as Majority Whip, Chairman of the House Committee on Trade, Technology & Economic Development, Senior Ranking member of the House Judiciary and Ways & Means Committees and also a Super Delegate of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Wineberry is the founder and CEO of BroadcastUrban, which in 1999 pioneered the global streaming of urban radio stations and national events on the Internet. BroadcastUrban streams live events and major market radio stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Las Vegas, Miami and other cities throughout the country to more than 6 million listeners each month. BroadcastUrban made history when the company streamed the inauguration of Barack Obama to more than 21 million viewers around the world. BroadcastUrban’s newest division, BroadcastUrban FilmWorks, is producing its first motion picture based on the incredible true story of Reginald Lewis, described by Oprah as “America’s first black billionaire.”
Lauren Parris, the vice president of BLSA, welcomed the honorees in the absence of BLSA President Carolyn Harris. Carolyn and several other BLSA members were in San Francisco successfully competing in the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition, taking 2nd place to UCLA and qualifying for the Thurgood Marshall National Competition. LaKeysha Washington, the immediate past-president of BLSA, won first place and was named the Great Oral Advocate. Law Alumni Board member Craig Sims ’97 is the team’s coach.