In honor of a good friend, a national advocate for human rights in law traveled here and spoke Saturday. Stephen Bright, the president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights was here to support Judge Myron Bright, 93, as he received a humanitarian achievement award from Temple Beth El in Fargo. "This is a great man, and I'm just so privileged to know him," Stephen Bright said.
Although the Brights are not related, Stephen Bright originally noticed Judge Bright's work partially because of their shared last name. "I had followed Judge Bright for years, and then 25 years ago, we met in St. Louis, and we've been meeting ever since," Bright said. He said when he received the invitation for the award ceremony, he responded immediately to support the judge.
Because Stephen Bright was in town to attend the judge's award ceremony at Temple Beth El, he also gave a speech at Touchmark senior apartments on the views that contribute to his work with the Southern Center for Human Rights. Bright said "Thurgood Marshall was right when everyone else was wrong," in reference to not only Marshall's work with de-segregation, but also his lesser-known work with criminal cases and advocacy against the death penalty and inhumane ways of interrogation such as torturing for a confession. "At one time in this country, we had the death penalty for just about everything," Bright told the crowd of about 20, several being Touchmark residents. Bright's work opposes making decisions in law or courthouses based on race or income level. He says many poor people are also discriminated against in courthouses.
Judge Bright was very pleased to have the support of his friend Saturday. "I was very honored and surprised by Steve coming," the judge said. He described Stephen Bright as a great lawyer who has devoted his life to serving minorities and people in poverty. "He's a person with a great heart and great ability," Judge Bright said. "Money isn't his goal. It's helping people, and to me, there is no higher calling."
Judge Myron Bright received an award Saturday night from the Temple Beth El in Fargo. Bright, 93, was awarded the Robert Feder Humanitarian of the Year award for his lifelong advocacy of fairness, tolerance and equal rights. "I am very pleased and very proud to accept (this award) at Temple Beth El," Bright said.
Bright has been a judge since he was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. He has also been a teacher at the University of North Dakota, University of Minnesota, St. Louis University and the University of Hawaii law schools. Before his career in law, Bright served in the U.S. military in World War II.
Bright is the first member of Temple Beth El to receive this annual award. The award is given to people who have positively affected the community. "We look for someone who stands out in the community and goes above and beyond," said Jim Shaw, who organized the award dinner Saturday. Shaw said he doesn't know of any other group in the area that gives out a similar community award. Judge Bright said this award means a lot to him because although he's received many awards, they've all been from courthouses or legal organizations, and he's happy to be recognized by the community. "When you're 93, these awards don't come around very often," he said.
The University of North Dakota School of Law recently honored Judge Bright's longtime support of his "adopted" law school by dedicating the Judge Myron and Fritze Bright Reading Room. The room located on the law school's third floor houses much of Judge Bright's law memorabilia, of which many items hold great historical significance.