FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: March 31, 2003
Contact: Cynthia Thompson, 206-6665
SPRINGFIELD – Noted civil rights attorney and expert on domestic terrorism Morris Dees will speak on “A Passion for Justice,” a free, public address, at 7 p.m. Monday, April 14, in Sangamon Auditorium in the Public Affairs Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Few people are more qualified to address some of the key issues that face the country in light of September 11 than Dees, who has successfully tracked and fought domestic terrorists for 20 years. And though he is aware of what America faces in its war against terrorism, his message is nevertheless one of hope, the opportunity to turn tragedy into our finest hour, and tolerance.
Dees is chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, a nonprofit group he co-founded in 1971 that specializes in lawsuits involving civil rights violations, domestic terrorists, and racially motivated crimes.
Dees’ victories in the courtroom include obtaining a judgment of $7 million against the Ku Klux Klan for inciting violence that resulted in the lynching of a black man in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981; a $12.5 million verdict in 1990 for the family of an Ethiopian murdered by skinheads in Oregon; and, in 1998, a $37.8 million verdict, the largest civil award ever, against the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for burning a church in South Carolina. In 2000, in another landmark decision, Dees was instrumental in obtaining an award of $6.3 million for a woman and her son when a jury decided that white supremacist leader Richard Butler was negligent in letting guards from his Aryan Nations compound chase and shoot at them.
Dees additionally works to develop ideas for Teaching Tolerance, the Center’s well-regarded education project, and in that vein he pushed for construction of Montgomery’s Civil Rights Memorial. Designed by Maya Lin and dedicated in 1989, the monument bears the names of 40 men, women, and children who died in the struggle for civil rights.
In 1996, as part of his continuing efforts to track domestic terrorists and educate the public about America’s radical militia movement, he published Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat, a book that explores the dangers these groups pose. His other books include his autobiography, A Lawyer’s Journey, and Hate on Trial: The Case Against America’s Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi.
On screen, Dees has been portrayed by actors Corbin Bernson (in Line of Fire, a 1991 TV movie about Dees’ life) and Wayne Rogers (in The Ghosts of Mississippi, a 1996 feature film about slain civil rights worker Medgar Evers). In the fall of 2000, Dees hosted an HBO documentary titled HATE.com that dealt with hate crimes and the Internet.
He has been named Trial Lawyer of the Year by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and has received the National Education Association’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award. Dees is a graduate of the University of Alabama Law School.
His appearance at UIS is sponsored by the Office of Student Life. For more information, contact Student Life at 206-6665.