Posted by Judge Sarah Hall on 09/24/2012


Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange received the Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award from the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) 16,000 members at its Annual Meeting and Convention in San Diego, CA.

The Sarah T. Hughes Civil Rights Award was named in honor of the Honorable Sarah T. Hughes, the first woman federal district court judge in the State of Texas and a pioneer and advocate for the civil rights of women and minorities. The award is created to honor the man or woman who promotes the advancement of civil and human rights, and exemplifies Judge Hughes’ spirit and legacy of devoted service and leadership in the cause of equality.

Chief Judge Miles-LaGrange’s frame of reference for the rule of law was shaped by many forces. She was born and raised by her parents, Charles C. and Mary Lou Miles, two life-long public school educators in Oklahoma City, largely segregated in the 1950’s. A product of segregated Oklahoma City public schools until the 10th grade, when she was selected to represent Bishop McGuinness High School at 1970 Oklahoma Girls’ State, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, to run a mock government and to learn how the process works.

Despite being popularly elected Governor by the 416 girls, she was prohibited as Governor from representing Oklahoma at 1970 Girls’ Nation in Washington, D.C. on the basis of her race. This injustice shaped her career and gave birth to her passion to seek equality for All Americans through her "fierce but characteristically gracious assault."

She was the first African American woman elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 1986 at the age of 33 defeating a 22-year incumbent. She was twice appointed by President Bill Clinton first, as Oklahoma’s first female United States Attorney, and several years later, as the first African American federal judge in the six-state the Tenth Circuit Judicial District. In 2008, she became the court’s first African American chief judge.

As an Oklahoma State Senator, for nearly a decade, she served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee, the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus and the Law & Justice Committee of the National Conference of State Legislators. As a passionate advocate of issues involving civil rights, law and justice, and women, families and children, she successfully sponsored legislation making stalking a crime; improving the delivery of maternal and infant care; improving the state’s child care system after extensive hearings throughout the state; affording minorities opportunities in state contracting; and championing The Fair Employment Practices Act to reduce the disparity of women hired in upper level state government jobs.

As U.S. Attorney for the Western District, she oversaw the prosecution of a public corruption case involving an alleged bribery and kickback scheme targeting more than one billion dollars in state investment funds. At the time, it was heralded as the largest scam to take money from a single office in state history. In 1994, she implemented Oklahoma’s first Weed and Seed Program, inaugurated in Oklahoma City by a U.S. Department of Justice anti-crime initiative between local law enforcement and a target community to weed out criminal activities and then restore it with identified quality-of-life initiatives such as drug abuse education and prevention and neighborhood revitalization. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno inaugurated Weed and Seed in Oklahoma City and later appointed Chief Judge Miles-LaGrange to serve on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.

A cum laude graduate of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, she received a Certificate from the University of Ghana, West Africa, and received her law degree from Howard University, Washington, D.C. where she served as an editor of The Howard Law Journal. During law school, she served as a part-time Congressional Intern for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Carl Albert. After law school, Chief Judge Miles-LaGrange clerked for U.S. District Judge Woodrow Seals in the Southern District of Texas. She later served as a federal and state prosecutor first, in the U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program developing cases for deportation and subsequent prosecution of Nazi war criminals living in the United States under assumed identities and later as a Sex Crimes Prosecutor for the Oklahoma County District Attorney.

Chief Judge Miles-LaGrange broadened her rule of law, human and civil rights experience, within and beyond the borders of the United States, as a member of the International Judicial Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 1999-2005, appointed by the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. She chaired the Committee’s Africa Working Group and worked with judges and courts around the globe on matters related to the establishment and expansion of the rule of law and administration of justice consistent with the national policy of the United States. Her extensive, in-country, rule of law and administration of justice work in Rwanda, post genocide, was recognized by the Oklahoma Bar Association’s 2006 Fern Holland Courageous Lawyer Award for "overcoming discomfort, fatigue, and risk to her life," the 2006 Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation Wall of Fame Humanitarian Award and The Journal Record 2004 Woman of the Year Award.

Her rule of law work has taken her to many countries including Rwanda, China, Liberia, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Cape Verde and has involved her in a variety of activities, dialogue, exchanges and conferences to impact civil and human rights. Cited for her international rule of law work and/or related civil and human rights work, she has been inducted into four Halls of Fame: African-American (1999), Women’s (2003), Child Advocate (2003), and Mid-America Education (2008). Chief Judge Miles-LaGrange also received the following awards: National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) Distinguished Alumni Award (1992); Oklahoma City University School of Law Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (1995); University Women’s Project Kate Barnard Award (Oklahoma’s First Commission of Charities and Corrections) (1999); American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession Meritorious Service Award for Leadership in ABA Judicial Clerkship Program (2002); The Ebony Tribune "Keeper of the Dream" Award (2002); County Historical Society Pathmaker Award (2006); and Bangladesh Society of Oklahoma Appreciation Award (2008). She also co-Authored A Passion for Equality – The Life of Jimmy Stewart, which was a 2000 Oklahoma Book Award Finalist.

She continues to work with judges, courts and sometimes students in Africa, South America and Asia. She recently facilitated a dialogue with Korean college students about Black History in America. Judge Miles-LaGrange has also hosted foreign judiciaries in Oklahoma, including the Supreme Court of Ghana and, in 2001, Russian judges as part of the Library of Congress Open World Program. In June 2012, she was among the delegation of invited judges by the Attorney General of Rwanda for the official closing of the Gacaca Courts in Kigali, Rwanda.

Please join the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Federal Bar Association in congratulating Chief Judge Miles-LaGrange on this most recent and well deserved honor.