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Co-Founder of SPLC, Morris Dees Kicks Off Civil Rights Lecture Series at Appalachian State on Wednesday

By Jesse Wood

Sept. 15, 2014. Morris Dees, a co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 1971, begins a star-studded, so to speak, lecture series by the University Forum Committee (UFC) on the campus of Appalachian State University for the 2014-15 school year.

The theme of the series is “The Civil Rights Act After 50 Years: Is There Justice for All Now?”


Dees will speak on Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the Schaefer Center at 7 p.m. This free event is open to the public.

Dees talk is titled, “With Justice for All.”

“The son of cotton farmers, Dees worked as a young boy in the fields with blacks, witnessing first-hand social and economic deprivation and Jim Crow treatment at its worse,” a release from ASU states.

While a law student at the University of Alabama, Dees began a successful direct mail sales company. “…Dees is a direct mail marketing genius who made a fortune selling cookbooks and later used his direct mail techniques to raise money for presidential candidates George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976,” according to a1979 article in The Tuscaloosa News.

But before his campaign finance work in politics, Dees launched a law practice in 1960 in Montgomery, Ala., and won a “series of groundbreaking civil rights cases that helped integrate government and public institutions,” a bio of Dees reads.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Montgomery, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, uses litigation, education and advocacy to fight hatred and bigotry and seek justice for those who are treated inequitably.

In 2006, Dees was named one of the most influential lawyers in the nation by the National Law Journal.

“Known for his innovative lawsuits that crippled some of America’s most notorious white supremacist hate groups, he has received more than 20 honorary degrees and numerous awards. Those include Trial Lawyer of the Year from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association and The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice,” his bio reads.

After Dees’ talk, the series continues on Monday, Oct. 20, with a talk from Timothy DeChristopher titled, “A Movement with Soul.” DeChristopher received national attention in 2011 after staging a protest of the Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction. With no intention to pay for the 22,500-acre parcel of land, DeChristopher bid $1.8 million. He was arrested and served 21 months in prison, however the U.S. Department of Interior admitted that it “had been rushed into the auction with insufficient environmental and scientific review, cancelled many other leases and a subsequent court injunction,” according to info on the UFC website.

On Monday, March 23, Mary Frances Berry will present “Whatever Happened to the Civil Rights Movement?”

Berry was chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission through four presidential administrations and is “one of the most recognized and respected voices in the nation’s civil rights, gender, equality and social justice movements,” according to the UFC.

See more on the UFC lecture series here.