January 5, 2021
The ELCA Southeastern Synod is pleased to name Hilton M. Austin, Jr., as the recipient of the Robert S. and Jean E. Graetz Advocacy Award. Through his vision and tenacity, Hilton pulled together a network of advocates in the four states of the Synod, to organize the effort to be the church in the public square, and to be a voice for those who, many times, have no voice.
He tells his story on his Facebook page, of having gone through an unplanned change in his vocation, when he heard a call to open a State Public Policy Office in Atlanta. In the first year he was able to host a gathering of other advocates in Georgia, and together, they worked on passing a Human Trafficking bill through the Georgia State Legislature.
As Hilton puts it, “The Lord said , ‘Go, be fruitful and multiply.’” Fruitful he was. Over the past years the Synod Advocacy Council has been equipped with volunteers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, who work on Criminal Justice Reform, Healthcare, Immigration, LGBTQIA, Environment, and many other Social Justice issues.
Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Synod Assembly, the presentation of the award was made in a socially-distanced presentation, by Bishop Kevin L. Strickland, and Pastor Matt Steinhauer, Synod Director of Advocacy, in Atlanta on December 16. Hilton’s wife, Patti, helped organize the surprise presentation, and there were neighbors, family and friends, who were able to be present to show their support, love, and gratitude for Hilton Austin’s good work.
In addition to the Synod Council Resolution (reprinted below), Hilton received an engraved award clock, and a cash award of $1,000, to be presented to the non-profit of his choice. Hilton chose the Georgia Interfaith Public Policy Center, which he also helped organize, and served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, as the recipient of the $1,000.
Congratulations Hilton M. Austin, Jr. Well done, good and faithful servant.