Henry A. Freedman ’62

Honorary degree recipient Henry A. Freedman '62
Doctor of Laws

Henry A. Freedman joined the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), formerly the Welfare Law Center, in its infancy and has served as its executive director since 1971. The center uses a coordinated strategy of impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy and support for community organizations to effect systemic reform in the delivery of human services to low-income families and to safeguard the legal and constitutional rights of the poor.

Described by Sen. Edward Kennedy as “a shining example of how much dedicated attorneys can do to make our society truly fair and just for all our citizens,” Freedman has been at the forefront of the welfare rights movement for decades. Among the seminal cases of his career, he successfully argued Califano v. Westcott before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979, establishing that benefits designed for unemployed parents cannot be withheld on the basis of gender.

Freedman has chaired the Committee on Legal Assistance of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and served on the New York State Department of Social Services State Advisory Council. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Reginald Heber Smith Award for Dedicated Service, the New York State Bar Association’s Public Interest Law Award and the William Nelson Cromwell Medal of the New York County Lawyer’s Association.

A 1962 graduate of Amherst College, Freedman earned an L.L.B. from Yale Law School in 1965, where he was president of the Legal Aid Association. Before directing the NCLEJ, he was in private practice in New York City and taught at Catholic University Law School in Washington, D.C. He has also taught at the Columbia and New York University law schools and the Columbia and Fordham schools of social work.

Hear Henry A. Freedman speak on "Reflections on a Lifetime of Lawyering for Economic Justice," on the multimedia page, Conversations with Honorary Degree Recipients.