Retired Circuit Judge Richard Fields has lived in the Charleston area for decades and seen the changes that development pressures bring.

And he has not sat idly by, one reason that the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation will honor him Thursday with its "Commitment to Justice" award, recognizing his "exceptional humanitarianism and passionate pursuit of justice for all."

The Charleston native, who earned his law degree from Howard University in 1949, is being recognized for his work as a member of the center's board.

"I'm concerned ... that we've become cosmopolitan and that our historical uniqueness is disappearing," he said.

"I have become keenly aware of the pressure and constant onslaught of development and the infusion and movement into our area of people from all over the world. We are witnessing a sacrifice of our culture by dilution.

"The pressure is on the rural areas that were predominantly African-American hamlets for generations. They were easy targets."

Fields became the first black attorney to run a law office in Charleston since Reconstruction.

In 1969 he became a municipal judge, a position he held until becoming a Family Court judge in 1975.

In 1980 he was elected a circuit judge, and served until his retirement from the bench in 1992.

He has been active in civic and business affairs, helping to establish Liberty National Bank in 1980, serving on the board of trustees of Claflin University and becoming involved in rural land preservation.

The reception, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Charleston Marriott Riverview Hotel, doubles as a fundraiser and is open to the public, according to Tish Lynn, the center's resource development coordinator.

Tickets are $100 each and can be purchased by calling Jacqueline Wilson at 745-7055 or going online at heirsproperty.org.

The event includes cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres, as well as a program of jazz with singer Ann Caldwell.