His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress. In the Spring of 2020, in Celebration of the 55th Anniversary of this life-altering event, LSA began a national search for the first John Lewis Fellows, resulting in 6 law students from across the country committed to providing free legal assistance to individuals in underserved and underrepresented communities to ensure Equal and Social Justice for all citizens in Alabama.
The initial goal of the proposal was to provide legal and social justice services to the Blackbelt and the Wiregrass citizens. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad of legal issues surrounding the virus, along with the increasing social justice issues across the country, we opted to use COVID-19 funding to combat these issues, therefore, this first year of fellows will provide services and support throughout the entire state. The goal of the John Lewis Legal Services Fellowship Program remains to train recent law graduates who have an interest in Rural Economic Justice for a career in public interest and social justice law to provide social, economic and legal change; while working on legal issues that will improve the quality of life for low-income individuals. In addition to training the fellows, we are also providing the fellows a glimpse into the life and work of Congressman Lewis, through a speaker’s series and tours that travel in the Congressman’s footsteps in Alabama. As the country mourns this giant of a man, we are humbled to honor his legacy and work through the LSA John Lewis Legal Services Fellowship Program.
Ford King is a former volunteer with LSA who translated their time spent in the Huntsville office into their new position as a John Lewis Fellow. King found their passion for legal aid as a volunteer, describing the experience as the “defining moment” of their career path. They credit the extensive knowledge bestowed to them by Huntsville staff as their motivation to continue working with LSA. King has also worked in their law school’s office of admissions and has previous experience in tax law. King is proud to represent their home state’s only civil legal aid organization and comes to the position with the desire “to ensure that no one goes hungry when there’s plenty to go around.”
Frederick Spight comes to the LSA John Lewis Fellowship after several positions in diverse legal aid fields. He has completed a fellowship at Legal Aid of North Carolina where he supported low-income and marginalized people, as well as spent time in Budapest, Hungary as a legal intern with the Chance for Children Foundation. While in Budapest, Spight had the opportunity to work on school desegregation initiatives alongside the historically disenfranchised Roma people living in the area. Spight has also worked as a social studies teacher and mock trial coach at the Carter G. Woodson School in North Carolina. Spight considers himself an idealist who works to see “what could be – and a process for achieving that vision.”
Kari Todd joins the LSA John Lewis Fellowship after completing law school where she amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience. During her time in law school she completed an internship at Bay Area Legal Aid in Northern California; there, she assisted vulnerable communities with a range of housing law issues. She studied Citizenship Law in Tel Aviv, Israel, and observed firsthand how a citizen’s rights impact their ability to participate in society. She also studied abroad at Australian National University in Canberra, Australia and spent a year working with her law school’s domestic violence clinic. Her family’s strong history of civil rights activism and resistance is what inspires her choice to work with LSA.
Tamara Imam joins the 2020 John Lewis Fellowship with an already extensive work history in the legal field. Imam has held two summer clerk positions at firms, three intern roles, one of which was served with the LSA Huntsville office, and two externships. Her work experience lies in fields that include municipal law, labor, and civil rights. During law school, she also volunteered with a number of legal aid clinics, but she credits her summer 2018 internship with LSA as the catalyst for her passion in public interest work. From protecting homes to ensuring access to public benefits, Imam hopes to “make a real, tangible difference in the lives of my clients.”
Valerie Mims is a civic-minded John Lewis Fellow with a background in sociological research. Mims has held legal intern and law clerk positions in both Mississippi and Alabama, as well as working as an advocate in youth programs. She is particularly proud of her contribution to increased justice while working to identify and remedy false convictions at the MS Post-Conviction Counsel. Her volunteer work includes time spent with the One Voice Election Program, the MS NAACP, and the Boys & Girls Club of North Alabama. Dedicated to being an agent for change, Mims’ goal is to “be the role model that I needed as a child growing up in a poverty-stricken community.”
Victoria Shoots is a recent law school graduate bringing an “optimistic energy and creative approach” into her position as a John Lewis Fellow. Shoots has diverse volunteer experience across the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Free the Captives in Houston, TX, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Alabama. Before joining LSA, she worked for a government relations firm in Washington, D.C., where she was also admitted to the D.C. Bar. After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shoots felt her career coming to a standstill – it was then she found the opportunity to become a fellow. Shoots feels that the work of LSA “chose her” as she has always believed, “poverty is an experience, not a destination.”