John Lewis Fellowship

Legal Services Alabama (LSA) launched the John Lewis Legal Services Fellowship program in the Spring of 2019, in preparation for the 55th Anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. We understood that the forefront of this movement was a student leader from Alabama, John Lewis, whose bravery, dedication, and hard work will forever be engraved in the fabric of our country's history. Congressman John Lewis dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he called "The Beloved Community" in America.

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, the first year of fellows provided 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 continues to mourn this giant of a man, we are humbled to honor his legacy and work through the LSA John Lewis Legal Services Fellowship Program.

Meet the 2023 Fellows

Benson Checketts


Mineral Springs, Arkansas


JD, University of Alabama School of Law
BA, Brigham Young University

Benson Checketts joins the Anniston office as a John Lewis Fellow. He comes to the fellowship with experience from externships in the public defender’s office and previous spent time with LSA. Checketts’ has volunteered his time in mediation clinics during law school and a 2-year mission trip in Portugal. He enjoys collaborating to combine strengths to achieve better outcomes rather than working in a vacuum. Checketts is happy to be a part of the fellowship program as it helps support his ultimate goal of “providing mediation to low-income individuals.”

LaRhonda K. Grant


Charleston, South Carolina


JD, Charleston School of Law
BA, University of South Carolina

LaRhonda joins the John Lewis Fellowship in Selma with a background in both political science and communications. She has experience as a former associate attorney working at the Isaak Law Firm. Grant is now supporting the Selma area with legal aid and organizing community clinics to offer expungement services thanks to generous funding from the Alabama Power Foundation. She is excited to represent the legacy of John Lewis by “upholding the highest standard of ethical and moral principles.” Grant is inspired by Lewis’ commitment to serving “the underdog, the underserved, and the underrepresented,” and considers her fellowship position as an opportunity to “pay it forward.”

Tracy Kennie-Gibbs


Marion, Alabama


LLM in progress, Cumberland School of Law
JD, Cumberland School of Law
BA, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tracy Kennie joins the John Lewis Fellowship in Huntsville with a passion for providing legal aid to low-income and minority communities. She has interned with the Jefferson County Family Court and worked as an attorney advisor at the US Small Business Administration. She is also involved with the development of service projects through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. As an African American woman who grew up in the heart of the Blackbelt, Kennie is inspired to address the access to justice gap through “being the change I needed [while growing up].” Her goal for the fellowship is to offer empathy and compassion to clients while being a zealous advocate for her community.