In Memorium - Joe Fernandez

Joe Fernandez is remembered by all who knew him as a warm, smart, and kind-hearted man, dedicated to his wife and daughters, passionate and relentless in his pursuit of addressing the betterment of his adopted community of Rhode Island. By the time of his untimely passing, Joe accomplished an extraordinary number of victories in that pursuit through his relationships and continuing commitment to Brown University, to the legal practice and bar of Rhode Island, and in gently but firmly supporting and promoting diversity, from his tenure on the Brown Corporation's Committee on Minority Affairs, Alumni Association and Board of Trustees, to his extraordinary policy, vision and leadership initiatives as the City Solicitor for the City of Providence, his chairmanship of the RI Bar Association’s Committee for Minority Involvement and last but not least, his membership in and support of the Thurgood Marshall Law Society.

A soft-spoken, thoughtful, yet social man, Joe grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania as the son of Filipino immigrants. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy before concentrating in American civilization at Brown University, after which he earned his law from Harvard Law School, a classmate of future U.S. President Barack Obama. He later co-chaired President Obama's presidential campaign in Rhode Island, and after his death, he was eulogized by the President, who said, "From our time together in law school to his work as a dedicated public servant in Providence, I knew Joe as someone who had lived the American dream and was committed to protecting it for his fellow citizens."

After more than a decade in private practice, Joe joined the City of Providence administration in 2003 as the city’s solicitor, and was later credited by then-Mayor, U.S. Congressman David Cicilline for playing a major role in addressing age-old corruption issues within city government. "Guided by a strong moral compass and deep commitment to public service," Cicilline recalled, "Joe led by example and earned the great respect of his colleagues and peers as a strong leader and expert legal strategist."

Fernandez resigned from the City in 2009 to pursue his ambition for a greater platform for effective change by running for the Rhode Island State office of Attorney General, promising "decisive, compassionate, and intelligent leadership."

During all of his professional life, Joe was a dedicated volunteer with a particular focus on greater opportunities for women and minorities, including as president of Harvard's Asian American Law Students Association, the afore-mentioned R.I. Bar Association Committee on Involvement of Minorities, his service on the Brown Corporation, and a member of the boards of the Trinity Repertory Company and the Community College of Rhode Island Foundation. Was also a founding board member of the Asian/Asian American Alumni Alliance, chairman of the Multicultural Alumni Committee, and a board member of the Brown Club of Rhode Island, ever urging leaders in every quarter to apply a "diversity lens" to their work. In 2006, the BAA recognized his efforts on behalf of Brown by honoring him with the Alumni Service Award.

In addition to fond remembrances of my dear friend, ally, mentor and colleague, I will be forever grateful to Joe for introducing me to both the Bar’s Committee for Minority Involvement, and to the Thurgood Marshall Law Society, where we continue to strive to match Joe’s energy and compassion regarding the critical importance of ever moving the needle forward, particularly with respect to promoting a bench and bar that are equally accessible and relevant to, provide equal justice for, and are reflective of the greater society we serve.

-Kas DeCarvalho
TMLS Chair, 2011-2015

Today, 11/22, In History

in 1930 - Nation of Islam founded in Detroit by Elijah Mohammed

in 1986 - George Branaham becomes first black to win Professional Bowlers Association title

in 1989 - Col. Frederick D. Gregory becomes first African American to lead a space mission

To Inspire You

We must have change in order to survive


Pearl Bailey

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