The Pioneer Award

When Gwen Keyes was sworn into office in January 1999, she made history in DeKalb County as the first African American ever elected to the office of Solicitor-General. She was also the first female and the youngest to ever serve the citizens of DeKalb County in this post. The DeKalb County Solicitor-General's office prosecutes approximately 12,000 misdeamonars each year. Gwen was responsible for supervising andd training a staff of approximately 25 attorneys and 45 support personnel while administering a $4M budget.

Gwen held this post until April 2004, when she chose to run for the position of DeKalb County District Attorney. After surviving a hotly contested primary and general election with 66% of the vote, Gwen became DeKalb's first African-American female District Attorney on January 1, 2005. As such, she will manage a staff of approximately 140 people and administer an $8M budget.

Gwen, a native of New Jersey, received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Douglass College, the all women's college affiliated with Rutgers University. Thereafter, she attended Emory University School of Law and graduated in 1993. Upon graduation she was recognized by the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers and presented with its Outstanding Law Student Award for high academic achievement, dignity, integrity, and commitment to the law. Ironically, Gwen began her legal career as an Assistant Solicitor-General in the DeKalb Solicitor-General's office where she prosecuted domestic violence, DUI's, and other misdemeanor cases. After being promoted to Senior Trial Attorney, Gwen was recruited to join the Fulton County District Attorney's Office as a Senior Assistant District Attorney where she prosecuted dozens of felony cases and obtained several murder, armed robbery, rape and child molestation convictions. In March of 2003, the DeKalb Rotary Council (the umbrella organization of DeKalb's Rotary Clubs) awarded Gwen Keyes the "You Are the Key Award" for Distinguished Service and Leadership, for her annual coordination of the "Ghost Out" Program. Throughout, her legal career, Gwen Keyes has maintained a commitment to community service not only in the legal community, but also in the community at large. During her first year in office, Gwen spearheaded two projects that focus on the issues of driving under the influence and domestic violence; crimes which represent the highest percentage of caseloads in her office. In June of 1999, Gwen coordinated a pilot project entitled, "DUI: Truth and Consequences," with the DeKalb County School Board in which a judge held court in a local high school and introduced students to the legal consequences of risky driving behavior. In 2001, Gwen expanded this project and coordinated with the traditional Teen DUI Prevention Ghost Out Program and produced an educational video that portrays a young teen's DUI arrest and subsequent conviction. The video won international acclaim in 2002 when it received an Award of Distinction in The Communicator Award 2002 Video Competition and has been aired on the local government broadcast channel as well as at local high schools.

In October of 1999, Gwen initiated a faith-based coalition to end domestic violence within the County. The project was designed to not only educate members of the faith community regarding the dynamics of domestic violence and the counseling resources available, but also provide training and assistance to religious leaders who wish to establish their own counseling or shelter facilities. In 2001, Gwen successfully obtained federal grant monies to supplement the costs of implementing the program in several religious institutions.

In the future, Gwen plans to continue her community outreach projects by implementing a Truancy Intervention Program in which volunteers mentor and encourage parents of truant students to keep their children in school. The goal of this project is to decrease the likelihood that students enter into the criminal justice system after dropping out of school. Additionals, Ms. Keyes hopes to add members of the business community to the list of partners in the fight against domestic violence by providing educational programs aimed at combating the increasing number of domestic incidents occuring in the work place.

Gwen Keyes currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Emory University School of Law and is a faculty member for Emory's National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) Program. She has been appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court's Commission on Equality (where she Chairs the Sub-committee on Sexual Assault Reform), is a Past President of the DeKalb Lawyers Association, a member of the DeKalb Bar Association, and the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys. In 2001, the Supreme Court's Commission of Professionalism awarded Gwen the Chief Justice Robert Benham Community Service Award, an honor that is bestowed upon judges or attorneys who have combined a profssional career with outstanding service to their community through voluntary participation in community organizations. She worships at the Ray of Hope Christian Church where she presides as an Elder.

Gwen credits her parents, Andrew and Ursula Keyes, as the driving force behind her commitment to community service. Her father served our country as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, and later retired as a government servant. Gwen's mother is a registered nurse who works at a rehabilitive hospital. Gwen says that her mother taught her to have compassion for people whco cannot help themselves.