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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Shorter, Alabama, USA
Birth NameMorris Seligman Dees Jr.

Mini Bio (1)

Morris Dees has incurred the wrath and hatred of many, if not most, on the extreme right of the American political spectrum. A native Alabamian, born in 1936 in Shorter in Macon County, Dees has noted that he grew up in an era, and in a region, where racial prejudice and white supremacy were accepted as an everyday fact of life, and in his youth he, as did virtually everyone else in the South, saw nothing wrong with it. As he grew older, however, the virulent strains of racism he saw every day began to work on him, and when he himself began to be subject to racial and religious slurs and epithets hurled at him because he was a Jew in the Deep South, he began to change his way of thinking. Shortly after graduation from the University of Alabama Law School, he and several others, including future civil-rights activist and political leader Julian Bond, founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, which specializes in lawsuits involving civil rights violations, domestic terrorist activities and racially motivated hate crimes. The Center has proved to be enormously effective in raising public awareness of the dangers of the extreme right-wing militia movement as well as the fanatical fundamentalist "Christian Identity" movement, both of which espouse religious and racial hatreds as part of their core beliefs. The Center was instrumental in bankrupting the Alabama Ku Klux Klan--after Alabama Klan members lynched a young black man in 1981, Dees and the SPLC initiated an historic lawsuit against the organization on behalf of the murder victim's mother, suing the Klan for inciting violence, and was awarded a $7-million judgment against the organization, something that had never happened before. In 1990 Dees and the SPLC won a $12.5-million judgment for the family of an Ethiopian man beaten to death by members of a white-supremacist skinhead group in Oregon. In 1998 he won a $37.8-million verdict against the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for the torching of a black church in South Carolina, the largest civil award ever won for damages in a verdict. In 2000 a jury awarded $6.3 million to a woman and her son in a lawsuit initiated by Dees and the SPLC against the white-supremacist Aryan Nation organization and its "pastor", Richard Butler. Guards at Butler's Aryan Nation compound had chased down and fired at the woman and her son in 1998, and a jury found Butler to be negligent in not only allowing but encouraging his guards in that kind of behavior. The award effectively bankrupted the organization.

His victories against these fringe hate groups have come at a cost, however. There are regular death threats made against him and bomb threats made against the Center, and several members of a white-supremacist organization were arrested after authorities were tipped that they had formulated and were putting into motion a plan to assassinate Dees. Supporters of the groups that he and the SPLC have been fighting against have circulated bogus "court documents" purporting to show that he is a convicted child molester and has been arrested for committing homosexual acts in public, and have started websites trying to gather derogatory information about both Dees and the SPLC. Nevertheless, they have continued to track domestic hate groups and terrorist organizations and to make the public aware of the dangers of such extremist groups.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: A. Nonymous

Trivia (2)

Civil rights attorney.
Founded the United States' Southern Poverty Law Center in the 1960s.

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