FARGO — Bismarck attorney Jack McDonald received the State Bar Association of North Dakota's Liberty Bell Award on Thursday for work McDonald has done during the course of his career on First Amendment issues.
The recognition was given to McDonald during the association's annual meeting held in Fargo.
McDonald received the award from Zachary Pelham, president of the bar association, who said that in the past the award hasn't necessarily gone to an attorney, though he said in McDonald's case it was fitting.
"The Liberty Bell Award goes to someone who promotes the understanding of our form of government, encourages greater respect for the law and courts, (and) stimulates a greater sense of responsibility on the part of citizens regarding their duties as well as their rights," Pelham said.
Pelham described McDonald as genuine, honest and up-front.
"Jack is an all-around good guy. But this award is being given to Jack for those reasons and for being an authority on the First Amendment in North Dakota," Pelham said.
A senior partner with the Wheeler Wolf Law Firm in Bismarck, McDonald divides his practice between a number of areas, including First Amendment and communications law work, lobbying as well as corporate and bankruptcy law.
A native of Bismarck, McDonald graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in journalism and his background includes a master's degree in journalism from American University in Washington.
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McDonald also earned a law degree from the UND School of Law, and he taught journalism at Southern Illinois University as a graduate assistant and at UND.
In addition, McDonald worked for a number of North Dakota newspapers and media outlets, including United Press International in Fargo.
Pelham said it was McDonald's work as a lobbyist where he really found his niche.
"I think Jack is most at home in the Capitol," Pelham said.
"Challenges to a free press exist, and Jack is at the forefront of being a proponent for the open access of government in North Dakota," Pelham added.
In accepting the award, McDonald made a point to acknowledge his wife, Connie, and six children.
He also acknowledged that fighting to defend the First Amendment has "been a tough road sometimes," and he gave a shoutout to President Franklin Roosevelt and a speech Roosevelt gave that sets out four freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
McDonald said Floyd Abrams, a famous First Amendment attorney, has pointed out that two of those four freedoms are enshrined in the First Amendment.
He said Abrams described the First Amendment as "the rock star of the Constitution. And I've always thought that's an important goal in North Dakota as well."
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