Phyllis Thornton oral history, 1991

Focuses on the founding of the Southeast Region Project Directors Association.

Oral history details

Storyteller: Phyllis Thornton
Interviewer: Geminiani, Victor
Date of interview: Jul 23, 1991
Where relates to: Mississippi and South Carolina
Topics: Civil legal aid: General
Law type: Civil
Collection: NEJL
Georgetown Law Library link (possible video):
Length: 0:39:40

Full text of transcript

Download PDF: Transcript

Georgetown University Law Center
National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with: Phyllis Thornton
Conducted by: Victor Geminiani
Interview date: July 23, 1991

GEMINIANI:: This is the oral history of Phyllis Thornton. It is being taken at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Today is July 23, 1991.The subject of the interview will be Phyllis’s central role in the founding of the Southeast Region Project Directors Association and her involvement in the design and implementation of the Southeast Region Annual Meeting at the Don CeSar. Good afternoon.

THORNTON: Good afternoon.

GEMINIANI:: Thank you — thank you for making your time available to us. Can you tell me a little about your background prior to coming into legal services?

THORNTON: I grew up in Bozeman, Montana. Graduated from Montana State University. Actually worked for the family court in Charleston, South Carolina for a number of years as a hearing officer, heard child support cases. Was asked by the bench and bar to accept a position with the legal services program in Charleston, South Carolina; was the first administrator of that program. I had been there for six months when I became a co-acting3 director, a position that I filled during my eight-year tenure. I spent four years as the acting director of that program.

GEMINIANI:: Who was the executive director at the time you first came to the Charleston program?

THORNTON: Steve Granberg. Absolutely wonderful. Taught me so much. I was in fact trained by two consultants, John Paer (spelling?) from Hawaii and Vic

GEMINIANI:, who at that time was with the Legal Services Corporation.

GEMINIANI:: You later became the acting director of that program?

THORNTON: Right. I was there for six months when I did it the first time and — saw it for eight months and usually on a two-year cycle, served anywhere from 10 months to a year and a half as the interim director. We, in those days, were having high turnover.

GEMINIANI:: You first came to the program in what year?


GEMINIANI:: And that was a period of time, if I remember, for Charleston, South Carolina when tremendous expansion of the program was —

THORNTON: Absolutely. It was a one-county program and expanded to 11 and became the largest legal services4 program in the state of South Carolina.

GEMINIANI:: Must have been many memories that you have of that period of time.


GEMINIANI:: Any particularly strong impressions that come back to you?

THORNTON: Very political days, lot of strife. And always when exp — with expansion comes a whole new set of problems because with the money comes additional responsibilities, and we certainly had some growing pains in those days.

GEMINIANI:: Do you remember what the relationships of the private bar were with the program during that period?

THORNTON: Very hostile, which was in fact why I was originally asked by the bar and the bench to accept the position with the program, and I was in fact the first administrator that the program ever had. And as it evolved, because there was a certain level of trust between myself and — and the bench and the bar, I’d like to think that I made a contribution to that program. One of my — one of the things that I remember is we were a program that had the migrant grant. And that had always been a very controversial program. And we5 were able to sit down with the welfare department and make arrangements that migrants would in fact be given food stamps immediately upon their arrival in the Charleston area. And I always viewed that as one of the things that I was able to accomplish that I think, that I hope made a contribution, when before, it took — usually they were gone before they ever collected any food stamps and were able to do anything in that area.

GEMINIANI:: Were there other major accomplish — accomplishments — accomplishments which you recall as you think back over those years in the Charleston program?

THORNTON: I watched the program grow. We went from a 44- member board of directors to a 20-member board, which currently exists within that program. And with that many obviously diverse personalities, you can imagine that our board meetings were rather lengthy. The staff was always very vocal in those days. Much more, I think, than they probably are now, attended every board meeting. Our board meetings used to start at 4:00 in the afternoon, and we were lucky if we finished by 2:00 the next morning.

GEMINIANI:: You later moved to the Mississippi pro bono6 program as the director of that program.


GEMINIANI:: Can you tell me what year that was?

THORNTON: I went to Mississippi in 1986. I have been there for five years now as the executive director of that program. When I came in, we had approximately 650 attorneys. They were doing about 200 cases a year. And that — basically in the family law area. We now have over 1500 attorneys and last — last year completed over 1500 cases. And so we’re really proud of that.

GEMINIANI:: Can you tell me what enticed you to become the director of a pro bono program in Mississippi?

THORNTON: Probably because when I was with the Charleston program, we were the only program of the — of the six programs in South Carolina that had a pro bono component. And I — I thoroughly enjoy working with the — with the private bar. And I view my role as bridging the gap between the legal services community and the private bar. And what I see coming from that is that it benefits our client community. There is such a great need out there. For example, in Mississippi, we have7 769,000 people that qualify for free legal services, and there are only 50 staff attorneys in the entire state. And anytime that we can encourage private attorneys to accept cases on a pro bono basis when there’s such a great demand and need for our services, and if I can make that a little bit better, I view that as my role.

GEMINIANI:: You have a valuable perspective of one having served for a number of years in South Carolina as a director of program and also in Mississippi now, one that is directly involved in the private bar delivery of legal services. Have you seen the relationships during those years and in those two states and across the South changed between the legal services programs and the bars?

THORNTON: Absolutely. One of the most interesting things when I was with the Charleston program is that — that when I was with that program, that it was mandatory for our attorneys to belong to their local bar association. And as you are probably well aware, they were very resistant to that. We did encourage them, and we paid their dues to attend those meetings. And one of the things that we8 did that really opened the lines of communication was is that our program had the very best law library in the state other than at the University of South Carolina School of Law. We made that available to our private attorneys as part of our PAI effort. And they would use that library during working hours and also on weekends. But what happened is is that our staff, who were also using the library during those same hours — all of a sudden, you would see a dialogue developing, and they would be discussing case strategy, et cetera. And I think that it was a good learning experience for both the private bar and for legal services. The private bar obviously figured out at a certain point that legal services were real folks who had gone to real law schools, and there was a much greater respect developed for the legal services community because of that process. I’ve watched that same thing happen in Mississippi. This — two years ago, the state bar association at my request agreed to honor a legal services lawyer of the year. We have given that award out for two years now. And it is one of the most coveted awards within the bar association and one of9 the most prestigious. And I think it is because we have worked very hard to encourage that dialogue between the private bar and legal services attorneys.

GEMINIANI:: From your intimate perspective in the — on the involvement of the private bar in the delivery of legal services, do you have any suggestions, lessons that you’ve learned and can pass on to legal aid lawyers and staff across the country about how to improve relationships and expand relationships with the private bar?

THORNTON: I think it is very important to recognize the fact that the private bar is in fact out there making a living, having to deal with overhead. One of the things that I say to legal services staff as I travel around the southeast region is that while we all have been known to not be happy about our salary or our compensation necessarily is the fact that we do have the luxury that whether we see one client a week or we see 500 clients a week, that someone else is paying for our secretary, someone else is maintaining our law library; that things that we take for granted, the private bar in fact has — they’re having to worry about compensating for that. 10And it’s very difficult, especially in a state like Mississippi where you have a lot of rural areas. A lot of attorneys probably are struggling to make ends meet, and they’re still accepting these cases. And they try to do a good job. I think it’s very important for legal services attorneys, once again, to participate in bar activities. In Mississippi, I had a program that that was not happening. And we were having a very difficult time making case referrals. Our bar president spoke to the local bar association, and I had asked a legal services staff member to be present. The mere fact that they stood up and introduced themselves and said thank you to the private bar, we immediately increased our case referral by 80 percent within a two-month period of time.

GEMINIANI:: You are considered the most central force in the creation of the Southeast Administrators Association.

THORNTON: Well, I don’t know that that’s true. A number of years ago — and I was trying to pull this back in my memory whether it was 1980 or 1981, there was a meeting in Nashville at administrators training. And it was probably one of the first times 11 that they brought the administrators together as a group. There was obviously a lot of concern that administrators felt that they did not have the ear of their project director or their support. And we were fortunate enough to be allowed to vocalize that and send a message to the project directors. Victor

GEMINIANI: was the regional director of the Legal Service Corporation’s — the Atlanta regional office at that time and took the lead in undertaking the responsibility to ask the project directors to give us a fair hearing in terms of listening to what we had to say, that we needed the training. In order to do our jobs effectively, we had to have the training. We needed to understand how the legalese fit in with the financialese. To make that work, we had to have the big picture. From the administrators from that standpoint needed to recognize that in order to be respected as a team player, had to find ways to make things work and not to just say no, this will never work, but to be — find creative ways to carry out the vision of the individual program, the goals and priorities of that program. 12There was a meeting here in 1980 or ’81, which was the first meeting of the — of the administrators association — not the association itself, but with the project directors. And there were very strong feelings on both sides that that would never work. We were lucky enough that at that point in time prior to that meeting, that once again, Mr.

GEMINIANI: was our regional director and after I probably hounded him to death for a number of months agreed to bring in Andrea Glorro (spelling?), who had started the region 8 administrators association as a consultant to the ad hoc committee that was formed to what eventually evolved into being the Southeast Administrators Association. And from that came — I will remember — probably one of my best memories is the project directors coming in, saying to me, the only reason you-all you want to be here is because you want to unionize, and you’re going after us for salaries and that. And now, you could not separate these two groups if you tried. It has become a much more cohesive group in terms of working together. There is a joint design team for these annual conferences. We get together once a year at the Don CeSar. And I think that we have 13 made a lot of progress in what we can now offer our clients because we’re working together and not separately.

GEMINIANI:: So the association came into being after a series of meetings that occurred among administrators within a joint —

THORNTON: A series of meetings that the regional office underwrote and actually picked up the expenses for us back in the good ol’ days. There was one rep from each state and —

GEMINIANI:: Were they elected on a state basis?

THORNTON: They were — the original group were selected by the regional offices’ administrators that were considered to be leaders and who had a vision of what this association should in fact be, that it was something for networking. In most programs, the administrator is the only person in that position. So there was a huge isolation factor, much as there is for project directors, that there’s no one else within your program that you can talk to on a day-to-day basis about the problems that — that you encounter and that. And that’s sort of how it evolved. We — 14

GEMINIANI:: Do you remember who “we” were? You’ve used the “we” term —

THORNTON: Bob — let’s see. It was Bob Davis. Myself. From Mississippi at that time was a woman by the name of — I’m going to lapse here, and I know it as good as my own. Cliff Jackson from Louisiana. Mary Lou Barker from Kentucky. Alabama, I believe was Sam Davenport.

GEMINIANI:: Florida?

THORNTON: Florida. I honestly don’t recall who — who — who it was from Florida and that.

GEMINIANI:: When you were discussing the creation of the administrators association with this group of eight to ten representatives from the states, do you recall the particular functions which you were hoping the association would be able to fulfill?

THORNTON: We were hoping — one of them obviously was education, that we needed to become more professional. We needed the management training. A lot of the people that are in those particular positions and programs started back in the old OEO days, and there was a lack of training in terms of management training, administrative skills and that. So obviously one of our functions and goals that we hoped to accomplish was 15 in fact the education factor. The other was to develop a much better relationship with the project directors. It was in fact hostile in those days, much as it was between legal services and the private bar. Administrators tend, because they deal with the money in programs and which is their job is to be very fiscally conscious of what’s happening, and project directors don’t want to hear, “No, you can’t do this because either it violates the regulation or it in fact — we don’t have the money.” And I view that as what part of the role was, was in fact to find ways to do that. And the other was — was strictly for the networking, to share the knowledge that was in the region. That was not going out. It was just staying within that particular program or particular programs and not being shared with all of the 73 programs in the region. And there were issues that we needed to look at that just could we do comprehensive insurance on a regional basis or even a state — state basis? Which was not being done at that time. Buying office supplies — (Glitch in recording; missing from 17:28 to 18:43) 16

THORNTON: — the staff attorneys and the project directors.

GEMINIANI:: You had had a unique opportunity to serve as both the administrator of a program in Charleston and now the director in Mississippi of Mississippi pro bono. Do you have particular perspectives on the importance of the relationship between a director and administrator?

THORNTON: Oh, absolutely. There has to be a level of trust, and I think that’s probably the most important thing, that there is that trust level by both sides, a mutual respect. And if we do not talk to each other — I remember a conference that we did in Atlanta several years ago, and I had — because I have a very strong personality, had somewhat insisted that we have substantive issues on the administrators training agenda. And Don Saunders from North Carolina in fact came in and did one on housing. We do a much better job for our clients and our program — and in some ways the program is our client — if we are aware of what the substantive issues are in terms of our client community. And since that time, the administrators have in 17 fact always had a substantive issue on their training agenda. The one for this particular meeting that we’re fortunate enough to be at now is employment law and the new American Disabilities Act. So from that perspective, I think — and those are the things we need to continue doing. It is very important that we continue so that we provide those services to our clients.

GEMINIANI:: Are there particular reasons, valid or invalid, why there are periodically frictions between an individual project director and an administrator? Are they seeing the world from different perspectives? Do they have different major goals or responsibilities within a program which creates some tensions between those two roles?

THORNTON: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you always — because the administrators are concerned for the — fiscal side is always one of their major responsibilities. And we are usually — what I characterize as number crunchers. Statistics are very important to us. I think to the project director and the staff attorneys, that the quality of the legal work that — that we provide is the issue, that we are doing the best we very — that we can for our client. 18And the numbers don’t have anything to do with that side of it, but given this day and age with all of the challenges that legal services is facing from our — people who are possibly not fans of ours for lack of better terminology, we — we have to work together to do — to get that out to the public. And I think that’s one of the things that we still need to work on is how do we sell ourselves. I mean airlines and hotels spend, you know, millions of dollars advertising what they do. I think we obviously don’t have those resources. There are other ways to do that. But I think that most people are not aware of what a great contribution legal services has made to this country.

GEMINIANI:: We are today at the Don CeSar Hotel, the scene of a number of momentous occasions. You mentioned one earlier in the interview, the first bringing together of the project directors and the administrators —


GEMINIANI:: — to talk about mutual interests. Can you tell me how you have seen the function at the Don CeSar change over the years?

THORNTON: Well, we have been meeting here for a number of years, as you are aware. As I said, the first year we 19 were here with the project directors, it was in fact a very hostile meeting, and nobody was really sure that they ever wanted to come back together again with those two groups. Agreed to try it a second year. What I have in fact noticed is is that this has now become a family event. I have seen children here that are now 7, 8, 9, 10 years old that I remember the first year they were here, they were babies. They were still in diapers. Last night — we always have — at this particular meeting, we always have a dance one night of the week. And one of the things that I negotiate with the hotel is keeping their Jacuzzi open until 2 a.m. in the morning, and the southeast project directors is the only group that they do that for. And when I go out to make my rounds, what I’m noticing now is that by 10:00, 10 or 11:00, there isn’t anybody out there, and I think that that is because we are now growing older, our families are here, there’s a different thrust. But it’s a very warm feeling to have watched these children grow up; the next generation, I hope, of legal services lawyers and administrators. I’ve been doing this meeting for a number of 20 years, and one of the things that I — that I feel that is my responsibility is to see that the people that come to this meeting have the very best time that they possibly can. People in legal services are some of the most dedicated and committed people that I have ever had the fortune of meeting. And they work very hard during the year, very, very long hours, very — not the best compensation in the world. And with this hotel, I have the reputation as being known as the dragon lady. And that is because I have always, as they put it, demanded that we get the service that makes this meeting — makes people want to come back to this particular meeting.

GEMINIANI:: You said you “do” this meeting. When did you start “doing” this meeting?

THORNTON: Well, I started doing this meeting — I was trying to remember that, but it was back in the early ’80s.Actually, there was a meeting in Atlanta that the project directors were having, and Victor

GEMINIANI: was still with the regional office. And the administrators were going to meet, and the project directors still weren’t real thrilled that they wanted us meeting with 21 them and especially not twice a year. Once a year was pushing it, but twice a year was — we were really treading on thin ice. And — but they did agree that we could meet at the same time, but we would just have very separate meetings. And I in fact negotiated the contract for that particular meeting. And they walked the project directors. The hotel oversold, and the administrators had rooms, and the project directors didn’t. And I just sort of fell into it. It has followed me now from South Carolina. I do it on a volunteer basis. I do all of the logistics, all of the hotel negotiation contracts, take care of everything on-site in terms of — of working with the hotel staff and the participants. Anything from babysitting to supplying the poker room with cokes at 12:00 at night.

GEMINIANI:: When do you start planning for this meeting, you personally? Since you have the primary responsibility for virtually everything that occurs at this meeting. When do you start planning in the year? By the way, it’s held normally in July.

THORNTON: It’s held normally the third week in July. And actually, I will be, before I leave here, 22 working with the hotel on next year’s meeting. It really gears up, though, again about the last of December, the first part of January and that. And I spend a lot of time –That’s what I hope that I give back to the legal services community is — is making this a good meeting for this group.

GEMINIANI:: What is your prime motivation? Is that your prime motivation? Why do you spend so much time developing this meeting and most importantly taking care of the needs of virtually anyone that has a bit of a problem?

THORNTON: Probably — my main — because that’s what I feel that I can give back to the community. I am not an attorney, probably would like to be, but the main thing is, is that I like to see people have a good time. And our folks work so hard. They are so committed and on a daily basis have such tough jobs. And there’s generally just attorney bashing, but I think still even now attorney bashing of legal services lawyers and administrators. And from my viewpoint, because folks do work so hard and there is not a lot else that I can offer this community, this is the one thing that I’d like to think 23 that I have been able to give back to them is to see that when they come here, that things go smoothly so that when they go back, they’re reenergize and ready to take on the world again in delivering high quality legal services.

GEMINIANI:: You mentioned before “when you do your rounds.” Could you describe a little bit about what your normal day is like here at the Don CeSar —

THORNTON: Oh, my rounds?

GEMINIANI:: — while this meeting is going on?

THORNTON: I start about 6:00 in the morning, walking with the hotel staff to make sure that the meeting rooms are set up the way we’ve specified, whether it’s classroom- style. Do we have water in the room? Do we have glasses on the tables?I wear a beeper for this meeting. I’m on call 24 hours a day with the hotel staff. They do manage to find me at any given point in time. I’ll then go down and check the coffee breaks to make sure that there’s plenty of food available for the participants. If somebody loses something, if they’ve never been to the property before, we try to make them familiar with what is in fact available here at the resort. 24As I said, the hotel a number of years ago gave me the nickname of “the dragon lady” and one that I have to tell you that I wear with pride these days. One of the high points of this particular meeting in 1991 was that they gave me my own registry resort name tag that says “Dragon Lady, A Living Legend.” Last night, for example, I fired the band and that. So my days usually go from 6 in the morning until about 2. I do Jacuzzi rounds because one of the agreements I make with the hotel is that we will not have any glass out there. Those types of things. I’ll go down and substitute plastic cups. Make sure the water ballet goes off without a hitch. We have some very talented people in this region. Our water ballet is famous all over the world. One of the things that I’ve noticed about this meeting that I probably forgot to mention to you earlier is that it used to be just a southeast meeting, southeast region. Now, the NLADA board and directors and civil committee and defender committee meet with us. The PAG executive committee and sometimes their steering committee come to our meetings. And for the last two years, the knickknack(?) group or hands(?) net(?) computer advisory group has been meeting as part 25 of this group. We are now in a position where we are turning people away, different groups that would like to come here. So I would like to think that we are giving something in a small way back to the legal services community at the pink palace.

GEMINIANI:: Your day starts at 6 with rounds. I know the other day, you got a beeper call from one of the attendees that wanted to play ping pong at about 1:00 in the morning, and the ping pong room happened to be closed. And you were on call, so therefore, you were —

THORNTON: We did in fact open the ping pong room so Charlie Dorsey and Marshall Hartman could play a game of ping pong. And the hotel in fact does obviously trust me enough because they left me there to lock up. And Charlie Dorsey won, by the way.

GEMINIANI:: When does your day normally end here?

THORNTON: Anywhere between 2 and 3 a.m. And then I crash for two days afterwards.

GEMINIANI:: Do you — you mentioned that the Don CeSar started to become a site in the ’80s. Do you remember — in the early ’80s. Do you remember how it was first chosen? Were you involved in the choosing of 26 the —

THORNTON: Well, actually, there was a — the OFS actually had a meeting here.

GEMINIANI:: Office field services —


GEMINIANI:: — Legal Services Corporation.

THORNTON: Right. And I was not involved in that particular meeting. However, I — I still when I’m negotiating contracts with the hotel and anytime they think that I’m getting too big for my britches or asking for too much from them in terms of what I expect them to comp such as providing a band on Monday night, and that remind me of a very famous food fight that occurred in the Grenada Room, which is one of their main meeting rooms and that, and Victor

GEMINIANI:, Clint Lyons, Lillian Johnson. I’m trying to remember who all was here. Someplace on my notes, I have that, but there was a very famous food fight. They had hamburgers and hot dogs, and there was ketchup, mustard and everything else. Victor had —

GEMINIANI: had in fact booked that particular meeting. And still we are fortunate he still attends our meetings as — as the chair of the 27 civil committee for NLADA. And I was with Susan Phillips, who is the vice president of marketing and sales for the hotel, the other night. And Victor’s name came up. And I told her that he was here. And so we all got together and reminisced about the infamous food fight that they do hold over my head in terms of contract negotiations, even to this day.

GEMINIANI:: As the years move on in the ’90s, do you see or do you hope for any different changes at the annual meeting here at the Don CeSar? Would you like it to continue basically the way it is today?

THORNTON: I think that they’re good meetings. I would like to see us continue with a lot of substantive training and that, but still find the time for the camaraderie, which is one of the most wonderful things that I see happening at this event is that the relationships that develop from someone from California with someone in Alabama. The networking that happens, to me, is one of the most important things because we all grow and learn from each other, and we all come from such very diverse backgrounds. This hotel has been educated. When we first started coming in here, they had never had a diverse 28 group such as this one is. And they now call me to tell me when they have seen an article on diversity and have I in fact seen it and that it is now required reading not only for their department heads, but for all of what they call front-of-the-house staff. So I think just the things that I’ve watched happen, I would like to see continue to happen but on a much bigger scale.

GEMINIANI:: In your 15 years-plus involvement in legal services in the southeast, you have had the opportunity to meet a number of memorable characters. Clint and Bucky come to mind. Do you have particularly strong memories of them or others?

THORNTON: Well, Clint — the Clint and Bucky show and — “the twins,” as we call them — I think there are probably other people other than myself that can talk and tell much better stories about them than I can, but Clint, I mean, probably my favorite thing about Clint here at this particular meeting is that he hosts the poker suite every year for us. And it’s my job to make sure that we have enough poker chips, chairs, cards, soft drinks, whatever. That’s one of the rounds that I make, as a matter of 29 fact. Usually between 10 and 11 every night, I visit the poker room. And that the Bucky show is famous. Bucky’s children, by the way, have been coming here every year. Bucky Askew, as most of you know, has — has in fact left legal services now, but was here again this year, and just told me as he was leaving today that he will be back in 1992 with this — with this group. Thorns Craven, Dennis Bricking, Harrison McIver, Martha Bergmark. The people that have — Bob Jenkins from South Carolina. The people that have given so much of their time and energy on a volunteer basis to the Southeast Project Directors Association. Julia Crockett from the administrators association. Bob Davis. Ida Denston. Terry Roach, who is no longer with — with our community unfortunately. But all of those people hold a very near and dear place in my heart because all of them have made it very special.

GEMINIANI:: Do you have any final thoughts on — on legal services or the Don CeSar, the region?

THORNTON: Just that I would like to see it continue, for us to continue to meet the challenge. And I do think we 30 have a challenge in front of us, that we need to continue to strive to work together. We must keep the lines of communication open not only between the project directors and the administrators, but between Caucasians and African- Americans. It is very important. We are such a diverse group of people. We cannot afford on behalf of our client community to argue among ourselves. We do have a common goal, and that is to provide high quality services. And we do a fine job from my perspective doing that in very adverse circumstances, lack of funds, many things. There are so many exciting things that people are working on. The loan forgiveness program, the — just the oral history project itself. I mean, we’ve been so fortunate to have people like Victor and Bucky, Lillian Johnson. I mean, there have been so many people that I’ve had the good fortune to meet. And even though I was — started as an administrator, one of the things that I have — that I have felt most fortunate about is the fact that I have never met a project director — well, maybe one or two, but that has not taken the time to share their knowledge with me in my days when I was an 31 acting director and just totally lost. Did not know my own job. But I have never found anyone who was not willing, if I was willing to ask the question and to ask for the help, that they were not willing to give it and that. And maybe that’s what I would leave with you is that we just need to ask one another. The help’s always there.

GEMINIANI:: On behalf of the staff and the board and most importantly the clients of the southeast, I think it was a fortunate day when a young girl from Bozeman, Montana decided to trek down —

THORNTON: You had to get that in, didn’t you?

GEMINIANI:: — and come home. You are a major institution that I know of in terms of the creation of the Southeast Administrators Association. You are the reason that this Don CeSar affair is nationally known among legal services workers. And you have given yourself caringly and willingly and freely to virtually anyone that requested your assistance. You are a role model in pro bono and a role model among administrators. And I thank you on behalf of the committee very much.

THORNTON: And I thank you and I love you.