Law professor and former dean of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law
Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative
2019 Brewer Torbert Public Service Honoree
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.
Mr. Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge inequality in America.
He led the creation of two highly acclaimed cultural sites which opened in 2018, The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The new national landmark institutions chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching and racial segregation and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.
Mr. Stevenson’s work has won him numerous awards including 35 honorary doctorates, the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize and the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association’s highest honor. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government and the author of the award winning New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy.