Personality: Helivi L. Holland

Spotlight on president of Old Dominion Bar Association at its 75th anniversary

5/29/2015, 8:38 a.m. | Updated on 5/29/2015, 10:57 a.m.
Helivi L. Holland knew at a young age that advocating for justice was her passion. “I was willing to verbally ...

Helivi L. Holland knew at a young age that advocating for justice was her passion.

“I was willing to verbally challenge others, including the teachers, when I felt someone was being unfairly treated. That started around second grade,” she said.

She has turned that passion into a successful career as an attorney and human rights advocate.

Ms. Holland, who is the first African-American to serve as city attorney for Suffolk, is the president of the Old Dominion Bar Association, the oldest statewide predominately African-American bar association in the nation.

The trailblazing organization is marking its 75th anniversary with a four-day conference in Richmond, beginning Thursday, May 28.

The event will celebrate the ODBA’s “founders, its fortitude and its future,” according to organizers.

Among the organization’s earliest iconic members: Attorneys Oliver Hill Sr., Samuel Tucker, Spottswood Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, who courageously spearheaded and won numerous civil rights court cases.

Ms. Holland was elected to a two-year term as ODBA president May 30, 2014, succeeding Vinceretta T. Chiles of Richmond.

“After years of admiration of the accomplishments of ODBA members and after serving on the ODBA’s Executive Committee for over 10 years, I decided to take on the challenge of leading the organization,” she explained.

The ODBA’s 75th anniversary celebration will include a public ceremony at the Virginia Supreme Court to honor the court’s first African-American justices.

It also will feature a black-tie gala, legal education seminars, a golf tournament and an array of speakers, including former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, Judge Roger L. Gregory of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, state Sen. A. Donald McEachin of Henrico, Dr. Steven G. Blunt, president of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, and Paulette Brown, the first black woman president-elect of the American Bar Association.

Ms. Holland will wear several administrative hats as she oversees the 75th anniversary commemoration.

“I have assisted with planning the conference regarding CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits, presenters, speaker selections, decorations, award selections and other various tasks,” she says.

In her leisure, Ms. Holland says she enjoys “going to good movies on the first day of release” and spending time with her family.

Here’s a look at this week’s Personality, Helivi L. Holland:

Date and place of birth: April 10 in Suffolk.

Alma maters: Virginia Tech, bachelor’s degree in business management; The College of William & Mary Law School, J.D.

When the Old Dominion Bar Association was first established: 1940.

Its mission: Virginia’s advocate for equal justice.

Why it’s necessary today: The recent activities in various realms of the three branches of government cry out for our members to be attentive and responsive to injustices.

How ODBA has changed since founding: Our challenges have changed regarding having minorities in various legal and non-legal positions. At our onset, we were only pursuing efforts that our members be considered and selected. Now we are pursuing efforts to make certain that our members remain in these positions, in addition to being in other positions that dispense, ensure and/or mandate equal justice for all citizens.