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Morris Dees, Co-Founder Of Southern Poverty Law Center,To Keynote UMass Dartmouth MLK Breakfast

Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, will be the keynote speaker at the 7th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at UMass Dartmouth on February 6.

Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, will be the keynote speaker at the 7th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at UMass Dartmouth on February 6.

The event will also feature the presentation of the university's Drum Major Awards to individuals and organizations who have answered Dr. King's 1968 call for citizens to be "drum majors for justice." This year's honorees are:

* Dr. Irving Fradkin, a Fall River native who founded Dollars For Scholars, which has blossomed into a nationwide scholarship program that has distributed more than $1.5 billion to more than 1.5 million students.

* Carol Spencer, Director of the UMass Dartmouth College Now program, an alternative admissions initiative which has helped more than 1,000 students navigate the challenges of higher education and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

"It is our honor as a university to recognize these individuals who have dedicated their lives to creating opportunities for people,'' UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said. "These are individuals who have put Dr. King's words into action. They are indeed drum majors for justice, examples for us all to follow."

The community is invited to this special event, which will be held at the university's Woodland Commons, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $15 for the public, UMass Dartmouth faculty and staff; and $5 for students. Corporate and organization tables are available for $120. Tickets are available at the Office of Equal Opportunity, Diversity & Outreach Office or by calling 508.999.8008. A book signing will follow the event. Complete details of the event can be accessed online at

Dees has spent the last 40 years fighting for civil rights. Dees is chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. In his pioneering role at the Center, Dees participates in suing hate groups and mapping new directions for the Center.

A successful book publisher in 1967, Dees sympathized with the Civil Rights Movement but had not become actively involved. A night of soul searching at a snowed-in Cincinnati airport changed his life, inspiring Dees to leave his safe, business-as-usual world and undertake a new mission.

"When my plane landed in Chicago, I was ready to take that step, to speak out for my black friends who were still 'disenfranchised' even after the Voting Rights Act of 1965," Dees wrote in his autobiography, A Season for Justice. "Little had changed in the South. Whites held the power and had no intention of voluntarily sharing it."

Dees began taking controversial cases that were highly unpopular in the white community. He filed suit to stop construction of a white university in an Alabama city that already had a predominantly black state college. In 1969, he filed suit to integrate the all-white Montgomery YMCA.

As he continued to pursue equal opportunities for minorities and the poor, Dees and his law partner Joseph J. Levin, Jr. saw the need for a non-profit organization dedicated to seeking justice. In 1971, the two lawyers and civil rights activist Julian Bond founded the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dees has received numerous awards in conjunction with his work at the Center. Trial Lawyers for Public Justice named him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1987, and he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association in 1990.

The American Bar Association gave him its Young Lawyers Distinguished Service Award, and the American Civil Liberties Union honored Dees with its Roger Baldwin Award. Colleges and universities have recognized his accomplishments with honorary degrees, and the University of Alabama gave Dees its Humanitarian Award in 1993.

In 2001, the National Education Association selected Dees as recipient of its Friend of Education Award, its highest award, for his "exemplary contributions to education, tolerance and civil rights."

Dees' autobiography, A Season For Justice, was published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1991. The American Bar Association re-released it in 2001 as A Lawyer's Journey: The Morris Dees Story.

His second book, Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi, was published by Villard Books in 1993. It chronicles the trial and $12.5 million judgment against white supremacist Tom Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance group for their responsibility in the beating death of a young black student in Portland, Oregon.

His third book, Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat, exposes the danger posed by today's domestic terrorist groups. It was published by Harper Collins Publishers in 1996.

Author:  "John Hoey"
Date:  12-Jan-2009
Department:   News & Public Information

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