Best of all, everyone in attendance respected him and could relate to him—a delicate balance that few judges ever achieve.
The naming of the Pittsburgh MVPs, and most notably this year, the recognition of Walton as the top MVP, has been the main attraction at each of the awards banquets.
In addition to the 11 Pittsburgh/Allegheny County MVPs, there were 10 recipients from the Penn Hills Eagles Track Club, five Connie Hawkins Basketball League Hall of Fame Inductees, four Champions Pittsburgh Legends Award and eight High School Student-Athlete Award.
Bill Neal, the president and CEO of Champion Enterprises, collaborated with Willie “Pops” Stargell in founding the event 38 years ago. Since then, the awards banquet has been held every year to honor Pittsburghers who have contributed greatly to the local community.
The annual Stargell Banquet has become one of the preeminent social events on western Pennsylvania’s sports calendar. Over the last four decades the Banquet’s impact on the sport community has been remarkable.
“I never knew that Pittsburgh had anything like this,” said calendar model Gabrielle Baker, of Ambridge. “I would like to get involved with Champion Enterprise, I love to work with kids and I’m very impressed with their mission statement and dedication to the community.”
Champion Enterprises Vice President James Boggus, before introducing Walton, shared some profound words that prepared the audience for the powerful message they were to receive.
Walton is a internationally recognized federal court judge, out of Washington, D.C., and is a native of Donora, Pa.
He assumed his position as a United States district judge for the District of Columbia on Oct. 29, 2001, after being nominated to the position by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate.
To say Walton has accomplished a lot during his three-plus decades as an attorney and United States district judge would be an understatement roughly the size of Texas.
“I worked in the White House for three years,” said Walton. “I returned to the bench because I wanted to make a difference in society.”
Walton was born in Donora, Pa., on Feb. 8, 1949. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from West Virginia State University in 1971 and received his Juris Doctorate degree from the American University, Washington College of Law, in 1974.
“In high school all I wanted to do was play football and my grades suffered. My guidance counselor told me to go to trade school but my mother wanted me to go to college. I had three scholarship offers and I decided to go to West Virginia State,” said Walton. “Once I got to college I was surrounded by a lot of people who took education seriously and I graduated with honors. Back in the late ‘60s there was a push for Black lawyers, so through the CLEO Program (Council on Legal Education Opportunity) I was able to pursue a law degree.”
Walton presided over the trial of former Major League Baseball player Roger Clemens, who was charged with perjury and obstruction of Congress. The job Walton did in the Clemens trail may outstrip any of his previous achievements.
“At the Roger Clemens trial the media was waiting for me to make a mistake, so they could report it. A lot of Judges would be fearful in that situation,” said Walton. “But the ability to deal with fear is a lesson I learned on the football field.”
The sponsors of the event were Chuck Sanders Charities; Highmark; Ed Gainey, state representative; Attorney William Goodrich; Frank Fuhrer Eagle Sales and Service; The Pittsburgh Pirates; Penn Avenue McDonald’s; University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Duquesne University School of Law; County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Attorney Jack Goodrich; Stephen A. Zappala, D.A.; The New Pittsburgh Courier; Domonic Gambino; Professional Limousine Service, P.K. Brown, owner; and Attorney Horoho.