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CDBHBA | Peter M. Pryor Pioneer Award
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Peter M. Pryor Pioneer Award

A life of dedication

The Peter M. Pryor Pioneer Award was created in 2015 to honor the life and work of Mr. Pryor, who was the first African American to graduate from Albany Law School. His exemplary life is shared below.

Peter M. Pryor was born in 1928 in Savannah, Georgia. He served our country with distinction during World War II, reaching the rank of sergeant in the United States Army. He is a graduate of Siena College, the class of 1952, and Albany Law School, class of 1954. He was the first African American to graduate from Albany Law School since Reconstruction. In his law practice, Mr. Pryor represented the poor and victims of discrimination. He has been called a “provocative and enduring pioneer” which is the reason the Capital District Black and Hispanic Bar Association has chosen to create the Peter M. Pryor Pioneer Award in his honor.

Additionally, in his distinguished career, he was appointed by Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz as an Assistant Attorney General, appointed counsel to the New York State Pure Waters Authority, and appointed Chairman of the New York State Consumer Protection Board by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. He also served as counsel to the New York State Insurance Fund. In 1980, he returned to the private practice of law with the law firm of Nolan and Heller and then the law office of Peter M. Pryor.

Most notably, Mr. Pryor was a leader in the civic and community affairs of the City of Albany and served on numerous nonprofit boards of directors. He was instrumentally involved within the most controversial and highly prolific cases of his day, at great personal cost to himself. He represented Sam Clark in a sensational police brutality case in 1962. He challenged the City of Albany in the case of Barbara Ann Sharpe, a 14 year-old African American girl who was denied access to the public pools of the City of Albany. Mr. Pryor also challenged the Albany political machine in voter and housing discrimination cases. Mr. Pryor was also the founder of the Albany Urban League and past president and general counsel of the Albany chapter of the NAACP. He is a trustee emeritus at Siena College and Albany Law School, and regent emeritus for the State University of New York.

Mr. Pryor is a recipient of many awards and recognitions, most prominent of which includes an honorary degree of law from Siena College, the Distinguished Service Award from Albany Law School, and is listed in Who’s Who in the East, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Black America.