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May 1, 2013 – Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPCL), was recognized with the American Bar Association’s (ABA) highest honor for his efforts to ensure access to justice for society’s most vulnerable members. In this video, former ABA President Wm. T. Robinson III presents the ABA Medal, which is presented to those who have given conspicuous service to the cause of American jurisprudence.
Presenting the award, Robinson noted Dees is a selfless public servant, passionate trial lawyer and courageous social justice and civil rights leader. “Mr. Dees is worthy of this award because of his steadfast fight against racism and injustice, which has positively transformed the lives of countless Americans.”
A graduate of Alabama School of Law, Dees is the son of an Alabama cotton farmer.
After launching a law practice in Montgomery in 1960, Dees won a series of groundbreaking civil rights cases that helped integrate government and public institutions. He also served as finance director for former President Jimmy Carter’s campaign in 1976 and for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972.
Known for his innovative lawsuits that crippled some of America’s most notorious white supremacist hate groups, Dees 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.
“Mr. Dees has pioneered the use of civil lawsuits to secure judgments against racist and hate groups,” said Robinson. “In the 1980s, Mr. Dees used the law to hold the Klu Klux Klan accountable for the acts of its members. In the 1990s, Mr. Dees obtained massive monetary judgments against several other hate groups. As a result of his ardent advocacy, Mr. Dees has suffered property loss and endured many threats to his personal safety. His contributions to the law to human kind and the evolution of our nation are beyond measure.”
Dees is the keynote speaker at the State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® Litigation, Dispute Resolution and Appellate Practice Institute in Milwaukee, May 16 - 17. The institute opens with Dees presentation. He will speak for tolerance and against prejudice as he reviews America’s commitment to “justice for all” as the nation becomes more diverse and economic disparity widens. Register online.