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james madison

James Madison Award

The James Madison Award, created in 2006, honors the nation’s fourth president, whose extraordinary efforts led to the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Nominees must have significant ties to Kentucky, and their efforts must have resulted in the preservation or expansion of freedom of the press and/or freedom of speech. The award recognizes a long-term commitment to these ideals. 

The Scripps Howard First Amendment Center in the School of Journalism and Media showcases the annual recognition of journalists and non-journalists for their contributions to protect or expand First Amendment freedoms. Winners include educators, lawyers, judges, scholars, librarians, students or ordinary citizens who have taken a stand for open government and open records, robust debate in the marketplace of ideas, promotion of the watchdog role of the press and defense against government or private censorship. 


The call for nominations is made annually in the fall. The nominator must submit a letter identifying the nominee, listing the nominee’s address, phone number and position and explaining why the nominee would be a worthy recipient. The letter should detail the specific efforts taken on behalf of First Amendment rights and should discuss obstacles and difficulties as well as the impact of the nominee’s efforts. The nominator should include up to three letters of support as well as other materials such as published or broadcast information. 

Entries are reviewed by a committee that will include previous winners and the director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center. The committee has the option of not selecting a recipient if it does not believe any candidate is deserving.

Past Award Winners

  • 2023 Michael Abate
  • 2022 Elizabeth “Scoobie” Ryan 
  • 2021 Bennie Ivory and Stan McDonald 
  • 2020 Kentucky Kernel 
  • 2019 Mike Farrell 
  • 2018 Jeremy Rogers 
  • 2017 Deborah Yetter 
  • 2016 Amye Bensenhaver 
  • 2015 Al Cross  
  • 2014 Steve Lowery  
  • 2013 Jennifer P. Brown  
  • 2012 Kim Greene  
  • 2011 Al Smith  
  • 2010 John Nelson 
  • 2009 David Hawpe  
  • 2008 Tom Loftus  
  • 2007 Jon L. Fleischaker  
  • 2006 Judith G. Clabes 

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