Palm Beach State College will present retired judge Rand Hoch with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award during the school’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 14.
The event attracts hundreds of students, faculty, staff and members of the community each year.
Hoch was nominated for the award by attorney Rae Franks, a law school classmate who has worked with him on numerous civil rights projects for many years.
“In law school, Rand and I shared a passion for advancing workers’ rights,” Franks said. “Over the years, he has worked tirelessly as a pro bono advocate, activist and organizer working to secure equal rights for minorities and women.”
Hoch became a political activist while still in his teens, growing up in Massachusetts in the 1960s. As a key organizer in the voting rights movement, Hoch, at the time a high school student, was one of only a handful of people invited to witness the bill lowering the voting age signed into law. Throughout his college and law school years, Hoch remained immersed in political causes. When he moved to Palm Beach County in the 1980s, his law practice centered on representing workers and unions.
In 1988, Hoch founded the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Under his leadership, the council has been successful in having civil rights laws enacted which secure protected status for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in private and public employment, housing and public accommodations.
Hoch was also instrumental in having the Palm Beach County School District adopt a comprehensive policy protecting public school students from harassment and bullying. To date, Hoch has been responsible for the enactment of more than 100 laws and policies extending equal rights and benefits to the LGBT Floridians. “With this award, Palm Beach State College has recognized the civil rights work done by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council over the years,” Hoch said. “It is a humbling experience to receive an award honoring Dr. King.”
In 2005, Palm Beach State College unveiled a 5-foot granite monument and named a courtyard on its Lake Worth in honor of the civil rights leader. The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is free and open to the public. It will take place on the Lake Worth campus on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 11 a.m. The keynote speaker for the celebration will be Morehouse College Professor Dr. Marc Lamont Hill. In 2011, Ebony magazine named him one of America’s 100 most influential black leaders.
To RSVP to the event, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/mlk.
ABOVE: Rand Hoch