Gilbert A. Bartlett, an alumnus of the William & Mary Law School and the College of William & Mary, has been given the 2008 Citizen-Lawyer Award by the William & Mary Law School Association. The award was presented by Association President Mark C. Van Deusen '98 during the Law School's graduation ceremony on May 11. It is awarded annually to a graduate or friend of the Law School who stands squarely in the Jeffersonian tradition of outstanding citizenship and leadership.
According to interim Law School Dean Lynda Butler, Bartlett "is the citizen lawyer that we hope our students will endeavor to become. His numerous charitable and community endeavors illustrate an abiding commitment to lending his time and talents to furthering the public good."
When told of the award prior to graduation, Bartlett said, "The Citizen-Lawyer Award is a nice surprise. I am pleased to be among the company I am joining by receiving this honor, like William Spong and John Donaldson '63. They have set an example, and I hope to uphold the tradition of what the Law School continues to train, the citizen lawyer."
Bartlett, left, receives congratulations at graduation from Law School Association President Mark C. Van Deusen '98. Photo by Colonial Photography.
Bartlett, a Williamsburg attorney, is a community leader who graduated from William & Mary in 1962 with an English degree. He served four years with the United States Marine Corps, including a year in Vietnam. He returned to Williamsburg to attend law school during which he served as Operations Editor for the William and Mary Law Review, and as Lt. Governor of the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. In 1969, he received his law degree from the Law School, and has been involved in local government, civic, business, and charitable organizations ever since. He remained in the Marine Corps and retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1992 with the rank of colonel.
"The Law School was the reason I returned to Williamsburg," Bartlett said, "where I also clerked for a Williamsburg firm where I currently practice law. The Law School gave me grounding and a different discipline from the one I learned in the Marine Corps. That discipline has served me well in both the community and the legal profession."
Grier Ferguson '77, Chairman of the Law School Alumni Association Nominating Committee and a partner at Ferguson, Rawls & Raines in Suffolk, VA, reviewed the nominees for this year's Citizen-Lawyer Award.
"Gil's name just came naturally to the top of the list of nominees," Ferguson said. "From his early years as a Marine ... to the decades of Iron Man-like commitment to the Williamsburg community, Gil has proven to not only be a leader, but the quintessential citizen lawyer. He makes the profession proud."
More than 30 years ago, Bartlett was among those who saw a need in the community to help prepare adults who had not completed high school to test for the GED. He helped organize and establish the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program at William & Mary, which continues to help people prepare for the exam. Today, the program has expanded to encompass literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. His wife, Polly, currently serves on their Board of Directors.
In 2001, Bartlett chaired the Hospice House Campaign, which benefitted Hospice Support Care of Williamsburg. Their programs now include the Hospice House and the support that it gives to the terminally ill and their families and caregivers. He currently serves as Chairman of the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation (WCHF), which has been given the highest ranking for a foundation by its trustees, according to BoardSource, the leader in building effective nonprofit boards. The $142 million foundation is tasked with funding grants to local health care services that follow the guidelines of a strategic plan to provide health care services for area residents.
"Among other programs, WCHF funds a consortia that includes Lackey Free Clinic, Angels of Mercy, and Gloucester Mathews Free Clinic that, along with Olde Towne Medical Center, provide health care to uninsured and underserved citizens whose medical needs are not met within the private sector," Bartlett said. The Foundation is also funding a multi-year $2.5 million grant for the Student Health Initiative Program (SHIP), begun in 2004, that targets childhood obesity in three local demonstration schools.
"We try to place the money where our hearts are," Bartlett said. "What sets this community of Williamsburg apart," he continued, "is that there are those who see a need or a problem and work to meet that need or help solve the problem. It raises the quality of life for all of us."
Bartlett also serves as Chairman of the Board of the William & Mary Law School Foundation until June 2008; as Director and President of the Gladys & Franklin Clark Foundation; and as a director and secretary of Williamsburg Memorial Park. In 2004, he was given the Prentis Award by the College of William & Mary, awarded to a Williamsburg resident whose civic involvement benefits the community and the College.
Timothy J. Sullivan, then College President, said in the press release announcing Bartlett's receipt of the Prentis Award that "... Gil Bartlett exemplifies a remarkably selfless commitment to public service. His leadership in local government, tireless volunteerism, and many philanthropic commitments have benefitted us all - including citizens often overlooked by others, whom he has served with special courage and compassion."
Previously, Bartlett was past President of the Williamsburg Area Chamber of Commerce; Campaign Chairman and President of the United Way of Greater Williamsburg; Co-Chair of the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools Bond Referendum; Chairman of the James City County Task Force on Financial Planning; and a member of the Williamsburg Jaycees. He has held positions on both the James City County Board of Supervisors and the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, and was a member of the James City County Industrial Development Authority.
The concept of the citizen lawyer is rooted in 1779 in the original intent of Thomas Jefferson for the Law School he created at William & Mary. Jefferson and the man he recruited to establish the school, George Wythe, wanted students not only to be skilled practitioners of the law, but also leaders for the common good of their communities, states and nation. Among the school's first students was John Marshall, later the Chief Justice of the United States - a paradigm of the citizen lawyer.