Munson honored for her service

The WCBA presented its Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” award to Blondeen Munson, who retired in 2010 after working at Legal Services of South Central Michigan for 32 years. It recognized her “dedication to building trust and respect between the community and the legal system” and her “tireless devotion to the cause of social justice.”

Bob Gillett, Executive Director of Legal Services of South Central Michigan, recalled the time the Legal Services staff was asked to come up with some skits for the Law Review. One idea was for everyone in the office to ask for Munson’s advice and approval. Lawyers asked Munson for legal advice while the director asked a budget question of her.

“I don’t think the skit ever got filmed, but that theme was not far from the truth in the office,” he said.

He said she’s known for many memorable quotes, often involving in scripture.

One famous Munson quote, he said, was:  `Well, I’ll go to that damn meeting, but I’m just going to sit there and I won’t say anything.’

Inevitably, the next day’s newspaper would include a photo of Munson speaking to a roomful of people.

Another Munsonism — “But what do I know? I’m just a poor black woman from the community.” — was typically made after making a sophisticated political commentary, he said.
Gillett said Munson made the legal system accessible and understandable to many hundreds of low-income and minority clients. He called her a cheerleader for, and part of the conscience of, the local African American community.

Accepting the award, Munson recalled that before she started working at Legal Services, she signed a quick claim deed after getting behind in her house payments. She said she’d worked at Legal Aid about 15 minutes before she realized she’d made a big mistake.

She soon realized how many others made similar mistakes.

“I made a decision that nobody that I knew was going to lose anything ever again because they didn’t know what their rights were and they didn’t know where to go,” she said. “That was my motivation.”

Munson thanked the attorneys for donating so many pro bono hours.

“I miss working,” she said. “It was easy to refer people when you worked with so many good attorneys as I have over the years.”

In his speech, Collins noted how much he admired the work of both honorees.

“Very often in the day-to-day practice of law, you can become cynical; you can become jaded,” Collins said.  “Being here tonight and hearing about the good work that the bar associations are doing, that the awardees are doing, really inspires me.”

He said the honorees’ work were examples of the law being a noble profession in helping lives.