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Never ever give up!

Mollie Finch Belt | 2/3/2014, 6:53 a.m.
In November, my husband and I attended The Rivers, Toney and Watson Annual Awards Ceremony established in 1981and named in ...
Mollie Finch Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

In November, my husband and I attended The Rivers, Toney and Watson Annual Awards Ceremony established in 1981and named in honor of the first three African American judges elected to office in New York state. It is an annual affair sponsored by the Foundation for the Judicial Friends Inc. Founded in 1978, the foundation was incorporated by members of the Judicial Friends, an association of judges of color who sit in New York State on the federal, state or local benches.

This year, the gala was held at the Marriott on the Bridge in Brooklyn, N.Y.

One of my college classmates at the University of Denver and a very good friend received a prestigious award for being the longest serving public administrator of the County of New York. Appointed to this position in 1988, Ethel Griffin was the first African American to be appointed to this office.

I am so proud of Ethel because she has been battling cancer for over 10 years and for the past three years has had a very difficult time due to the side-effects of chemotherapy treatments. Some may have thought it would be better for her to retire and focus on rest and recovery. But that was not the path she chose. She has had many challenges but she hasn’t given up and remains optimistic. For a while, she became so weak that she even wasn’t strong enough to walk without a walker. However, during the dinner/dance she walked the entire ballroom without assistance, smiling and greeting guests. She also stood alone as she made her acceptance speech after receiving her award.

Ethel continues to work and serve the people of New York. As administrator, she primarily manages the estates of individuals who die without leaving a Last Will and Testament and where the closest relatives cannot be identified or cannot be located. At any given time, Ethel and her staff are managing the estates of thousands of deceased residents of Manhattan. Her office has sold millions of dollars worth of cooperative and condominium apartments and other real estate in the city of New York. Her office conducted the first public auction of a multi-million-dollar lottery ticket, negotiated musical royalty rights and raised millions of dollars in revenue for the city of New York. Some of the notable estates administered during Ethel’s tenure included copper heiress Huguette Clark, actress Gloria Foster, musician Peter Tosh and screenwriter Harry Bates.

Ethel, originally from Austin, moved to New York after graduating from college to attend NYU Law School and has remained in Manhattan.

Among others receiving awards was Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He was appointed by President Barack Obama in March 2010 to the seat that was vacated by Sonia Sotomayor when she was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States and he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in December 2010. When he accepted his award, Lohier said he would be glad when one day minorities will be appointed to judicial seats and not just to fill a seat previously occupied by another minority.

It was a judicial affair; the ballroom was filled with primarily judges and some attorneys practicing in New York.

It was also good to see some of my classmates from DU who also came to be with Ethel. They included Emmit McHenry and Al White, co-founders of Network Solutions, Lynette Johnson Benjamin, M.D., originally from Houston and a hematologist who specializes in sickle cell anemia and resides in New York.

The ballroom was beautiful and the evening was full of moments to reminisce. But there were two important things to be taken away from the event. One: It is important to remember the past and how far we have come, though we still have so far to go. And two: Life and justice are worth fighting for. No matter how difficult the battle seems, as long as you’re breathing, never, never give up.

Be part of the conversation. Send your letters to mbelt@dallasexaminer.com.