The Anti-Defamation League has chosen Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger as this year’s winners of the A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award.
“Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger are powerful leaders, who have huge footprints in our community,” said Jonathan Lake, the ADL’s South-Central Regional Board chairman. “Their steadfast dedication to equal access and LGBTQ rights have made New Orleans a better place for everyone, and their leadership keeps New Orleans as a cutting edge city and pace-setter on many civil rights issues.”
Merrick formed his own company in 1973 and then, in 1986, purchased Latter & Blum Inc./Realtors, one of the largest real estate companies in Louisiana. He also acquired numerous brokerage firms and incorporated a mortgage firm, a title company and an insurance agency.
Merrick has been active in numerous civic organizations. In 2015, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans. In the same year, he was honored as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Southeast Louisiana Council of the Boy Scouts and as the New Orleanian of the Year by Gambit magazine.
In 2014, he became the first Louisianian to join the United Way Million Dollar Roundtable, a national membership reserved for million-dollar donors. In 2005, the American Red Cross named him the Humanitarian of the Year. He has served as the campaign manager for the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and the March of Dimes.
Arthur Roger is the owner and director of the Arthur Roger Gallery. In 1978, he opened the gallery on Magazine Street, establishing a reputation as a gallery director and for his efforts supporting female artists, African-American artists and artists from the LGBTQ community. In 1988, he moved the gallery to Julia Street. After Hurricane Katrina, he played a pivotal role in the revival of the visual arts scene in New Orleans.
Roger has served on many boards including the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the New Orleans Arts District Association.
He originated Arts Against AIDS, benefiting the NO/AIDS Task Force. Among other honors, he received the Young Leadership Award in 1994, the Junior Achievement Role Model in 2009 and the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Award in 2016.
This year, he donated scores of paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures from his personal collection to the New Orleans Museum of Art, where they are on display in the exhibition “Pride of Place: The Making of Contemporary Art in New Orleans.”
“The award recipients are people who care not just about themselves today but about the children and grandchildren of tomorrow,” said Michael Botnick, a former ADL regional board chairman and a selection committee member. “They care about the greater good and translate that caring into action. They strive to build a brighter future in which all people share the fruits of democracy.”
The award will be presented at the annual A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Dinner at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Dec. 5. Tickets are available at www.adl.org/botnicktorch or by contacting the local ADL office at email@example.com or (504) 780-5602.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination against all groups through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.