Allie B. Latimer’s pursuit of opportunities for women is legendary. She made history in 1977 when she was the first woman and the first Black person appointed General Counsel of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), as well as the first woman to attain the GS-18 salary level at GSA, directing a staff of over 150 lawyers. After graduating from Hampton Institute, she volunteered for two years with the American Friends Service Committee, performing work in prisons and mental institutions. She participated in the effort to desegregate the New Jersey State Hospital at Vineland and an effort to integrate a suburban community outside Philadelphia. Latimer later enrolled in Howard University School of Law and earned her Juris Doctor in 1953. In 1958, she went on to earn a Master of Legal Letters degree from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, and earned both a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Howard University School of Divinity.
She is the recipient of the Ollie May Cooper Award, presented by the Washington Bar Association for a lifetime of legal humanitarianism and outstanding contributions to the legal profession. Among more than 50 awards and citations, she has received Presidential Rank Awards from Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan and the GSA’s Distinguished Service Award. Ms. Latimer has been inducted into the National Bar and the Washington Bar Associations Halls of Fame. In 2009 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Her life is an example of not only how she broke down barriers herself, but also how she has worked tirelessly to help women, minorities, and many others overcome barriers.
While serving at the GSA, Ms. Latimer became troubled by the fact that salary and qualification restrictions for women made certain employment, such as with the FBI and the police, prohibitive for women. With these inequities in mind, in 1968, she cofounded Federally Employed Women (FEW) and became its first president. FEW’s mission is “to work to end sex and gender discrimination, to encourage diversity for inclusion and equity in the workplace, and for the advancement and professional growth of women in federal service.” Today, FEW is an international organization with over 3,000 members and located in 10 regions. FEW’s many accomplishments and activities have impacted the federal workplace and contributed to improved working conditions for all.
To women climbing the ladder to greatness, Ms. Latimer advises, “…you didn’t get where you are by yourself, someone pulled you up so it is your responsibility to pull someone else up.” As for achieving work-life balance, Ms. Latimer recalls, “As we were formulating FEW, and as people went up the ladder serving as volunteers, they were also learning … and this education would do them well in their jobs, in their churches, with their children; in any endeavor in life. It was preparing them for leadership, management, supervisory roles… wherever they were. Even as mama!”