Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

This site is archival. Please visit for up-to-date content.

Missouri Lawyers Honored During Law Day Ceremonies at MU

September 19th, 2011

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – MU alumni, faculty members and students were recognized for their contributions to the study, research and practice of law in the state of Missouri at the University of Missouri’s Law Day on Sept. 17. Law Day is an annual alumni and faculty awards ceremony hosted by the MU School of Law. Don Downing and Edith Wright were awarded the Citation of Merit, which is the highest award given. Eight additional awards were given to outstanding MU students, faculty, and alumni, and 24 MU students were inducted into the national law school honorary societies Order of the Coif and Order of Barristers.

“On Law Day we celebrate the excellence that has been a hallmark of the law school for almost 140 years,” said Larry Dessem, dean of the MU School of Law. “We are proud to recognize those outstanding  alumni, faculty and students and look for even greater accomplishments from these individuals in the years ahead.”

Downing has worked in the St. Louis law firm Gray, Ritter & Graham since 2004. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri. He later served as chief deputy attorney general for the state of Missouri. Downing has handled a wide variety of commercial litigation and class action cases. He has appeared at the Supreme Court of the United States four times, including one case he personally argued. Downing is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, “Best Lawyers in St. Louis in Commercial Litigation” in St. Louis Magazine, and as a “Super Lawyer” by Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers Magazine. Downing also currently serves as a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

Edith Wright enrolled in the School of Law in the fall of 1941 with a class of about 40 students, including one other woman. The bombing of Pearl Harbor spurred masses of men to enlist and quickly whittled the law school’s enrollment to just 16. With the war’s disruption, Wright was the only one of her class to graduate on time. In 1946, she was appointed as legal counsel to the Children’s Code Commission, a legislative commission charged with recommending laws regarding juveniles and adoption. Some of the proposals of the commission became laws that gave more rights to adopted children and protected the identity of juvenile defenders. In 1969, she joined Boone County National Bank in Columbia as a trust officer and eventually rose in position to head the trust department until her retirement in 1982. She was a pioneer for women lawyers as well as a leader in the development of juvenile law and trust administration in Missouri.

2011 MU Law Day Award Recipients

Omar Davis, Distinguished Recent Graduate Award

Davis serves as general counsel of the Missouri Veterans’ Commission. While at MU, he was president of the Black Law Students Association and was actively involved in the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity.

James Layton, Distinguished Non-Alumnus Award

Layton is the solicitor general of Missouri and adjunct law professor has argued 60 times before the Supreme Court of Missouri and three times before the U.S. Supreme Court.

C. Curtis Shank, Judge L.F. Cottey Advocacy Award

Shank is a second-year MU law student. Last year, Shank was a Top Ten Oral Advocate in the 1L Moot Court Competition and clerked for Langdon and Emison in Lexington, Mo. this summer. He is an associate member of the Missouri Law Review.

Paul Litton, Husch Blackwell Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award

Litton is an associate professor of law at the MU School of Law. The award was established in 1980 and is presented to the full-time faculty member for distinguished achievement in teaching.

Thomas Lambert, Shook, Hardy and Bacon LLP Excellence in Research Award

Thomas Lambert is an associate professor of Law at the MU School of Law. This award was established in 1993 and is presented to full-time faculty members who demonstrate excellence in research.

R. Wilson Freyermuth, Shook, Hardy and Bacon LLP Excellence in Research Award

Freyermuth is the John D. Lawson Professor of Law at the MU School of Law.

Greg Scott, Loyd E. Roberts Memorial Prize in the Administration of Justice Award

The Loyd E. Roberts Memorial Prize in the Administration of Justice Award is an honor established in 1979 that is given to the MU law professor or student who has made the most significant contribution to improving the administration of justice during the preceding year. Scott, who passed away in August, joined MU in 1996 after working in the Office of the Missouri Attorney General and at Swanson-Midgley in Kansas City.

Mary Nelson, Order of the Coif Honorary Initiate

Nelson was the first African American elected to partnership in the 80-year history of Lashly and Baer, P.C., the first African American and first woman general counsel and legislative director to a Missouri Speaker of the House, the first African-American general counsel to St. Louis Development Corporation, and the first African-American woman appointed to Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission, which is her current position.

W. Hampton Ford Jr., Order of Barristers Honorary Initiate

After serving in the U.S. Army, he worked in several Columbia law offices and as public defender of Boone County before becoming a partner in Ford, Parshall and Baker, L.L.C., in Columbia, in 2000.