PBA Minority Bar Committee Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to Philadelphia City Solicitor Nelson A. Diaz
The 2003 PBA Minority Attorney Committee Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Philadelphia City Solicitor Nelson A. Diaz March 28. The award was given during the 15th Annual PBA Minority Bar Conference at the Westin Philadelphia Hotel.
“Nelson Diaz has constantly honored us with his service to the profession and the community, and he merits receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Christopher A. Lewis, who nominated Diaz.
Born and raised in the Harlem area of New York City, Diaz earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. John’s University in 1969 and graduated from Temple University School of Law in 1972. While at Temple, he founded African-American and Hispanic law student organizations. Diaz was the first person of Puerto Rican ancestry to be admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and the first Hispanic judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
From 1973 to 1977, Diaz was the executive director of the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia. He then became an associate with the firm of Fell, Spaulding, Goff and Rubin, after which he served as special assistant to Vice President Walter F. Mondale. In 1978, Diaz joined the firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen and in 1981 was appointed to the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. He then became a lecturer of law at Temple from 1983 to 1992. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed Diaz as administrative judge of the trial division of the court of common pleas in 1991. Diaz then became the first Hispanic to be appointed general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1993 to 1997. There, he managed more than 500 lawyers, reformed public housing by settling a backlog of 20 major civil rights cases and revised regulatory programs. After that, he joined the firm of Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley as partner until becoming Philadelphia City Solicitor in December 2001.
His professional memberships include the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar Association, the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, the National Hispanic Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, the New York Bar Association, the Philadelphia Bar Association and many more.
Diaz has served on many community and civil boards, including the Democratic National Committee, the Urban Affairs Partnership, the National Association for Hispanic Elderly, the William Penn Foundation; Temple University Hospital, the Greater Philadelphia First Corporation, the Greater Philadelphia Economic Development Coalition, The Free Library; Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (founder), the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, the Philadelphia Commission on AIDS, the Police Athletic League, Young Life Board of Trustees and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
He has received numerous awards and honors, which include the National Puerto Rican Coalition Life Achievement Award, the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association Award, The Foundation for Improvement of Justice Inc. Award, Philadelphia Jaycees Outstanding Young Leader of the Year, five honorary doctor degrees, a listing in Who’s Who in Delaware Valley, Philadelphia Human Relations Commission; the St. John’s University Medal of Honor and the NAACP-North Philadelphia Exemplary Award.