Sept. 25, 2012
BERKELEY - Thelton Henderson, a member of Cal football teams in 1951 and '52 who cultivated a long legal career that has included service as a U.S. District Judge for more than 30 years, has been chosen as the 2012 recipient of the Glenn T. Seaborg Award.
The award, named after the former University of California chancellor and 1951 Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is presented annually to a former Cal football player for his career accomplishments who represents the honored Cal principles and traditions of excellence in academics, athletics, leadership and attitude.
"Thelton is another great example of a former Cal football player who has distinguished himself with an outstanding lifetime of accomplishments," said Jack Hart, chair of the Seaborg Award Board of Directors. "Congratulations to the 2012 Glenn Seaborg Award winner."
Henderson joined the Cal football program as a freshman in 1951, playing alongside such notable Golden Bears as Matt Hazeltine, Jim Hanifan and Paul Larson. He spent time at both halfback and safety for the Bears, and even got into a couple of varsity contests his first year with the team. Under head coach Pappy Waldorf, Henderson started at safety early in his sophomore season, but a knee injury on a kickoff against Santa Clara put an end to his playing career.
The setback did not deter Henderson's academic endeavors, as he graduated with a B.A. in 1956 and earned his J.D. from the School of Law in 1962. Soon after, he joined the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he prosecuted voting rights cases in the Deep South. Henderson returned to Oakland in 1964 to practice general law with the firm of FitzSimmons and Petris.
From 1966-68, Henderson served as an attorney for the East Bayshore Neighborhood Legal Center in East Palo Alton, and in 1968, he was appointed an assistant dean of the Stanford Law School, where he taught several courses and established a minority admissions program. He also served as a consultant for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Founation's Office of Public Health.
Henderson returned to private practice in 1977, specializing in civil rights, civil liberties and constitutional law cases. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Henderson served as Chief Judge for the district from 1990-97. He resumed his status as an active judge in 1997 and took senior status in November 1998.
In 1999, the School of Law at Cal established the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, which serves as "a training and research center that prepares the next generation of lawyers to represent underserved communities and produces innovative and accessible scholarship on issues of race, sex and poverty." The center also annually awards the Hon. Thelton E. Henderson Social Justice Prize to a recent Boalt Hall graduate who "best exemplifies the intellectual rigor, integrity, courage and vision that are distinctive of the Honorable Thelton E. Henderson."
Established in 1995, the Seaborg Award has been presented to 17 recipients. Past winners are:
1995 - Rod Franz