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The CWBA's Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award is presented annually to an outstanding female attorney who has enriched the community through her legal and civic activities. 
The Award recognizes the tradition begun by Mary Lathrop, an early woman lawyer in Colorado who blazed many trails for other women in the profession.

2020 - Velveta Golightly-Howell 

2019 - Alli Gerkman 

2018 - Beth H. McCann

Nominations for the 2021 Mary Lathrop Award
were due by Noon, September 17, 2020

We will announce this year's winner in December 2020.

Due to this year's Convention move to a virtual platform, the CWBA's prestigious Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award will now be presented to Velveta Golightly-Howell during the 2021 Convention, along with our 2021 honoree recognition, during a reception on Friday, May 21, 2021.

Please contact the CWBA’s Professional Advancement Committee Co-Chairs Kathryn Starnella or Andrea Bronson if you have any questions about the award or nomination process.

Meet Our 2020 Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award Winner

Velveta Golightly-Howell

Throughout her successful career, Velveta has created a long trail
that has illustrated each of the traits this award
was created to honor. 

Velveta Golightly-Howell (“Mrs. Howell”) is a visionary, transformative leader, and arbiter of Civil Rights and social justice. Early in life, Mrs. Howell decided to become an attorney and dedicate her life to effecting positive societal change. After graduating from The Tuskegee Institute with a B.S. degree in political science, she headed to Colorado for law school at the University of Colorado. Remarkably, Mrs. Howell chose to attend law school in Colorado, a state visited only once and where she had no family or support network! Yet, she became merely the fifty-seventh African American, and eighth African American woman, to earn a Juris Doctorate degree from the then century-year-old academic institution. Mrs. Howell has worked tirelessly at all levels of government and briefly in the private sector, to advance causes about which she is passionate – in a nutshell, “equality for all.” Her willingness to serve in unchartered high-profile, influential, and consequential roles opened and continue to open doors for those coming behind, particularly female legal professionals.    

Mrs. Howell is licensed to practice law in Colorado, New York, and before the U.S. Supreme Court. After admission to the Colorado Bar, renowned Denver District Attorney Dale Tooley appointed Mrs. Howell the first African American female Deputy District Attorney in Colorado. Following success in the fiercely competitive, and often brutal, world of criminal justice and acquiring a Master’s in Public Administration, Mrs. Howell moved on to pursue her unrelenting goals of driving change to enhances others’ lives.  Again, earning a place in Colorado history, she became merely the third African American and second African American female legal counselor to the City and County of Denver. There, she litigated employment actions before the Federal judiciary, as well as Federal and State administrative tribunals. While in this role, Mrs. Howell also served as counsel to Denver city and county elected, appointed, and career officials.  More historical achievements followed as she became the second highest ranking attorney at an international labor union, she litigated EEO-related actions throughout the U.S.  Mrs. Howell’s ensuing selection by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the General Counsel (OGC), as one of ten regional chief Civil Rights attorneys, nationally, was again historic. She became merely the second female, first woman of color, and second African American, to serve in this role. Along with numerous other responsibilities, Mrs. Howell managed the legal aspects of regional Civil Rights operations, litigated Civil Rights and employment actions, and counseled clients. HHS/OGC recognized her stellar achievements with Superior Achievement and Excellence in Legal Services awards, through which she earned admission to a club that less than five percent of “all” HHS/OGC attorneys were members.  Subsequently, as just one of two women Mrs. Howell, a graduate of Leadership Denver and the Federal Executive Institute, led and oversaw the HHS Rocky Mountain Civil Rights operations, the sole female member of the Regional Executive Team. She received Executive of the Year and Distinguished Regional Manager awards throughout her tenure. Just prior to leaving Federal Service, Mrs. Howell joined the U.S. Senior Executive Corp, serving as Director of Civil Rights at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.    

According to African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Understanding that a village is also required for personal and professional growth and success, Mrs. Howell has built and led sustainable coalitions composed of members, who share their talents, knowledge, and experience to serve the public interests. Their collective works have broadened opportunities for communities to access quality healthcare, housing, education, food, transportation, and clean air and water and weaken the force of illegal discrimination.                                                                                    

Throughout her careers, Mrs. Howell has served as an engaged mentor, who has never declined a mentorship. She has also devoted significant time to child and youth–centered nonprofit organizations. For her, mentoring and developing the young are inspirational. Mrs. Howell is also a past CWBA board member. In March 2020, she will be one of ten women – and the first African American lawyer - inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Married to John L. Howell, her loving and supportive husband of almost four decades John L. Howell, they are proud parents of two adult sons.   

Read more about Mrs. Howell on our blog, The 1891.

Please join us in recognizing Velveta Golightly-Howell for her outstanding contributions to the legal profession.

We are proud to present Velveta Golightly-Howell with the 2020 CWBA Mary Lathrop Award, as she embodied the intelligence, strength, stamina, and character of a true trailblazer! 

Mary Lathrop (September 1880)

History of the Mary Lathrop Award 

Mary Lathrop was born in 1865 to a Philadelphia Quaker family. At age 19, she became a reporter at a local newspaper. She had a distinguished career until poor health forced her to choose a new profession at age 30. She came to Colorado and pursued a legal degree at the University of Denver College of Law where she graduated first in her class. She passed the Colorado Bar in 1896 with a score that would stand as a record until 1941. 

Lathrop hung her shingle in Colorado in 1897, specializing in probate law. She continued to influence this field, helping to redraft probate statutes and assisting in developing the Small Guardianship Law. Her most famous case was Clayton v. Hallett, which established the law of charitable bequests in Colorado.

Lathrop was a woman whose many “firsts” would inspire others to follow in her footsteps. After being turned down twice because “women should not practice law,”
she was the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court in Colorado. She was also the first woman to open a law office in Colorado, the first woman to argue before the Colorado Supreme Court, the first woman to join the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, and was one of the first two women to join the American Bar Association.

Lathrop recognized the importance of community involvement. During her lifetime, she made anonymous donations to help students. She also received numerous awards for her service work and excellence in the legal profession. After her death in 1951, she left the bulk of her estate to establish a student loan fund at the University of Denver.

In order to preserve and foster the memory of this woman who has left a legacy for us all, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association (CWBA) began presenting the Mary Lathrop Award in 1991 and has made an annual presentation each year since. The CWBA gives the Mary Lathrop Award to an outstanding female attorney who has enriched the community through her legal and civic activities.

The CWBA is grateful for the ongoing and generous financial support of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, LLP for sponsoring this award’s presentation each year at the CWBA Annual Convention.

Past Mary Lathrop Award Honorees:

2019  Alli Gerkman
2018  Beth H. McCann
2017  Rebecca C. Alexander
6  Helen C. Shreves
2015  The Honorable Sandra I. Rothenberg 
2014  The Honorable Patricia Coan 
2013  Lorraine Parker and Doris Truhlar
2012  The Honorable Janice B. Davidson, and Lynn Feiger 
2011  The Honorable Mary A. Celeste  
2010  Deborah R. Adams
2009  The Honorable Elizabeth A. Starrs
2008  Lynda A. McNeive  
2007  Pamela Robillard Mackey
2006  Fay M. Matsukage
2005  The Honorable Nancy E. Rice 
2004  Marla Williams
2003  The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Mary E. Ricketson
2002  The Honorable Mary Mullarkey
2001  The Honorable Rebecca Love Kourlis
2000  The Honorable Christine Arguello and Dottie Wham
1999  Gale Norton and Gail Schoettler
1998  Susan Barnes and The Honorable Claudia Jordan
1997  Cathlin Donnell and Mary Hoagland
1996  Sheila Hyatt, Barbara Salomon, and Mimi Wesson
1995  Norma Comstock, Karen Steinhauser, and The Honorable Zita L. Weinshienk
1994  Natalie S. Ellwood
1993  The Honorable Jean Dubofsky, Marilyn Traub Meadoff, and The Honorable Jacqueline St. Joan
1992  Mary Brickner, Margaret B. Ellison, and Brooke Wunnicke
1991  Elizabeth Adams Conour, Elizabeth L.Guyton Girch, Estelle Hadley, and
Helen T. Street  

Colorado Women's Bar Association • P.O. Box 1918 • Denver, CO 80201
Telephone (303) 831-1040 • Email: execdir@cwba.org

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