Strictly From Hunger

The Morris Dees Story

In his autobiography, A Season For Justice, Morris Dees describes his 1967 epiphany in snowbound Cincinnati.  Dees was, at the time, a millionaire 31-year-old lawyer, salesman, and publisher.  While he had “sympathized with the Civil Rights Movement,” he “had not become actively involved.”  By the time he arrived in Chicago, however, he was determined to “specialize in civil rights law.”  The defiant Dees declared: “It did not matter what my neighbors would think, or the judges, the bankers, or even my relatives.”  Morris Dees contra mundum.  Four decades later, it may be confidently stated that, whatever neighbors, relatives, and judges might think, Dees’ bankers have no cause for complaint.

In 1971, Dees cofounded (with Joseph Levin and Julian Bond) the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.  Poverty law is redolent of storefront lawyers with clip-on ties and ponytails sworn to good works.  Dees, however, has always believed in doing well by doing good.  His former business partner, Millard Fuller, once said that he and Dees “shared the overriding purpose in making a pile of money.”  He added, “We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.”  After selling his publishing company, Dees bought a luxuriously appointed 200-acre estate. ...

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