PROFILES IN SUCCESS
BY HALEY HEMEN
Throughout his career in the law, the best piece of advice Judge Alfred Harrell has received is that you can’t live your life alone. “You will need help,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for it, and, when you are asked, don’t be afraid to give it.” Harrell has made this a way of life. This year, the CBA recognizes him with its highest honor—the Award of Merit—in recognition of his outstanding service to the legal profession, lifelong dedication to correcting injustices, and unflagging commitment to helping others.1
The Path to Law
Harrell’s commitment to service was first modeled after his stepfather, Irving Andrews. Andrews played a prominent role in the civil rights movement, was involved with the NAACP, and served on the legal defense team for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas,2 which established that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Harrell was 7 years old when Andrews came into his life and he “immediately became my hero. I wanted to be just like him. I saw first-hand the impact that he had on so many people’s lives in our community. I always hoped that one day I would be able to have that same type of impact.”
In fourth grade, Harrell would learn what lawyers actually did. “I remember announcing at dinner one evening that I wanted to be a lawyer just like my dad. I never wavered from that declaration.” As a result of his father’s work with civil rights organizations in and around Denver, young Harrell was able to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Constance Baker Motley, Rodolpho “Corky” Gonzalez, and Minoru Yasui, each introduction affirming his decision to become a lawyer.
History would further impact his decision when, at 12 years old, Harrell learned about the horrific lynching of Emmet Till—who was only 14 years old—in Mississippi. “I recall being very disturbed and frightened by what had happened. My parents sat down with me and explained what was basically going on in our world and especially what was happening to African Americans in the South.” This only fueled his commitment to a career where he might be able to address injustice. In college he joined CORE, the Congress for Racial Equality, and participated in demonstrations and protests. In 1963 he joined the March on Washington, D.C., where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream”...