Southern Environmental Law Center Founder/Executive Director Receives Highest Award from Garden Club
Rick Middleton, founder and executive director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, was awarded the Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal by the Garden Club of America at its annual meeting last night in Philadelphia. This year marks the Garden Club’s 100th anniversary.
The Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal is awarded for outstanding achievement in environmental protection and for maintenance of quality of life. Former honorees include celebrated writer Wendell Berry and pioneering scientist Eugene Odum.
“Rick has had a transformative impact on the protection of the Southeast’s special natural places and wildlife, and also on the strength and effectiveness of the nonprofit organizations that work to conserve them,” says Jane Goedecke, Awards Committee Chair for Garden Club of America.
Rick Middleton has been in the vanguard of the environmental movement for almost 40 years. Under his leadership, the Southern Environmental Law Center has grown to be the largest environmental organization focused exclusively on the South, with nearly 60 attorneys dedicated to protecting the region’s abundant natural resources and vibrant quality of life. Among other achievements, the organization has secured added protection for more than 2 million acres of Southern Appalachian national forest, won a unanimous victory in the United States Supreme Court to ensure cleaner air, and defended dozens of special places in our region, from Charleston and the Lowcountry to the Virginia countryside and Great Smoky Mountains.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Middleton graduated from the University of Virginia in 1968 and then received a law degree from Yale University in 1971, when many of the fundamental environmental laws of this nation were being created. Recognizing that the Southeast needed its own environmental champion, he founded SELC in 1986. It now has offices in six states: Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award from an organization that has such a deep commitment to safeguarding our natural heritage,” says Middleton. “So much of SELC’s work is about protecting what is wonderful about the South—its natural beauty, its special places, its unique character. And like a garden, it requires constant nurturing and attention. I am very pleased that the garden club recognizes the importance of what we have achieved over the past 28 years—and our positive vision for the future.”