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University of Kentucky Libraries has awarded the 2020 UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement to Emeritus Professor of Law Robert G. Lawson, a nationally recognized scholar on criminal law and the individual responsible for drafting the state’s laws on crime and punishment.

Created in 1990 and considered one of UK's most prestigious awards, the medallion honors a Kentucky resident whose accomplishments represent the pinnacle of education and creative thought in the fields of science, literature, art and philanthropy. Medallion recipients are determined by the UK Libraries National Advisory Board after receiving nominations from the public. Past recipients include John Anthony, Wendell Berry, James Still, Bobbie Ann Mason, Thomas D. Clark, Dr. Laman A. Gray Jr., Guy Davenport, George C. Herring, Adalin Wichman, John Egerton, Karl Raitz, George Wright, James C. Klotter, Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, Everett McCorvey and Robert K. Wallace.

“I am so proud that the University of Kentucky Libraries recognizes the intellectual and creative contributions of Kentuckians, and there is no finer example of the dedication, scholarship, and service the award was designed to honor than Professor Lawson's body of work. He has shaped the Commonwealth's thinking on criminal law and evidence, educated generations of legal scholars and leaders, and is continuing the work of advancing the lives of others through his efforts to reform the state's prisons and jails,” Dean of Libraries Doug Way said.

Robert G. Lawson received his bachelor's degree from Berea College in 1960 and his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky in 1963. He has been a faculty member of the College of Law (now the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law) since 1966, with two periods of service as dean: 1971-73 and 1982-88. From 1994-96, he served as special assistant to the  University of Kentucky president.

Lawson’s exemplary contributions to the study and practice of law have been recognized throughout his career. He received the University of Kentucky Great Teacher Award in 1971 and again in 2001. He also received the Outstanding Professor Award in 2001, which is granted each year to one professor from the state’s several public universities by the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education.

In 1978, he received the first ever Law Alumni Professorship, and in 1981, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Kentucky Law Alumni Association. He was elected to the Kentucky College of Law Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Kentucky Bar Association recognized his accomplishments in 1998 with the Kentucky Bar Center Award, and again in 2010 with the Kentucky Bar Association Outstanding Lawyer of the Year Award. He has also received multiple Best Scholarship in Kentucky Law Journal awards (1999, 2000, 2005 and 2007).

On March 11, 2015, the Kentucky Senate honored Lawson with a resolution in recognition of his retirement from the University of Kentucky College of Law. 

"Professor Bob Lawson is the epitome of a scholar whose focus is on advancing the lives of others. Through his legal scholarship in the fields of criminal law and evidence, he has educated generations of our Commonwealth’s great lawyers and leaders. Through his books about legal events that have a wider audience, he has expanded the knowledge of the general public about our legal system that, ultimately, belongs to them. He is also a legend at the UK Rosenberg College of Law through his leadership as dean and a respected faculty member who has lived a life devoted to our students and graduates," University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law Dean Mary J. Davis said.

Lawson has been extensively involved in law reform efforts in Kentucky, acting as principal drafter of both the Kentucky Penal Code and the Kentucky Rules of Evidence. Recently, he has focused on problems in the state’s prisons and jails. For his work in this area, he has received a Special Recognition Award from the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, and the Judge Charles Mengle Allen Advocate for Fair Criminal Justice Award from the Prodigal Ministries, a prisoner advocacy organization.

"I cannot find words that would adequately describe my appreciation for the Medallion for Intellectual Achievement award. To see my name on a list of prior recipients that includes Gov. Bert Combs, Professor Thomas Clark, Wendell Berry, and many other highly prominent Kentuckians is really hard to adequately appreciate," Lawson said. "So I am left to say thanks to the UK Libraries for this most special award and to let everyone know that I am overwhelmingly honored to hold in my possession the Medallion for Intellectual Achievement." 

Lawson is the author of a number of articles and books, including Handbook on Kentucky Evidence Law (fourth ed. 2003), "Beverly Hills: The Anatomy of a Nightclub Fire" (1984), and "Who Killed Betty Gail Brown: Murder, Mistrial, Mystery" (2014).

Traditionally, the Medallion recipient is honored at the UK Libraries annual Spring Gala event, which was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The major research library in the Commonwealth and a member of the Association of Research Libraries, UK Libraries supports the university’s land-grant mission to improve people’s lives through education, research, service and health care by providing democratized access to information, spaces, technology and tools that advance knowledge, drive discovery and foster interdisciplinary collaboration.

Library faculty and staff have a wide range of expertise, including acquisitions and collection development, discovery systems and information technology, special collections and preservation, information literacy and reference services, research data management, and digital technologies. These individuals provide outstanding service, collaborate with instructors to create rewarding and affordable learning opportunities for students across all disciplines and support researchers at all levels with their creative and academic scholarship.


By Shanna Wilbur 
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 17, 2020)