Morris Dees Exposed (Update)

I can’t quite remember where or when I heard Morris Dees speak back in the 90’s, but I remember that he was one of the very few speakers who ever inspired me. I may not be easily moved by speeches, but then, I may be as easily fooled as a great many other people. Morris Dees was fired by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit he co-founded in 1971 with Julian Bond and Joe Levin.


Morris Dees, now 82, was the SPLC. What could this now-old man have done to be unceremoniously ousted from the organization he co-founded?

The group’s president, Richard Cohen, did not give a specific reason for the dismissal of Mr. Dees, 82, on Wednesday. But Mr. Cohen said in a statement that as a civil-rights group, the S.P.L.C. was “committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world.”

“When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action,” Mr. Cohen said.

Mr. Cohen’s statement suggested that Mr. Dees’s firing was linked to workplace conduct. He said the center, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., had requested “a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices” in a bid to ensure that the organization was a place where “all voices are heard and all staff members are respected.”

Despite murdering all those words and saying nothing, the smell is certainly that Dees said or did something that violated the radical rules of the hour. Perhaps he touched someone on an unwanted elbow. Perhaps he doubted that it was righteous for Palestinians to destroy Israel. Maybe he uttered the word “girl” or, god forbid, interrupted an employee’s exposition of pained experiences.

But whatever he did, it was so horrible that Cohen had to first fire the man who created the fabulously wealthy kingdom over which Cohen now ruled, and now plans to investigate.

The center’s most recent tax documents showed an endowment of $471 million. In response to criticism about its wealth, the center has pointed to the high cost of engaging in long, complicated legal battles. Skepticism has persisted anyway.

Half a billion dollars is a lot (technically, a “shit ton”) for an organization with “poverty” in its name. But then, like when the ACLU met fools with their money, the cries of Apocalypse have been very, very good to the SPLC.

After the deadly violence at a white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, donations to the organization came flooding in. Tim Cook, the head of Apple, announced the company would donate $1 million to the center. It also received a $1 million grant from a foundation created by George and Amal Clooney.

The SPLC has long since forsaken its mission of fighting the Klan, instead creating lists of people and organizations for the woke to hate and punch, which the passionate advocates of the media, who describe themselves as “journalists,” believe as gospel. If you’re on the list, you’re doomed. How could Morris Dees’ SPLC be wrong?

I also received the law school’s invitation to the presentation of the “Morris Dees Justice Award,” which you also mentioned in your letter as one of the “great things” happening at the law school. I decline that invitation for another reason. Morris Dees is a con man and fraud…

The positive contributions Dees has made to justice–most undertaken based upon calculations as to their publicity and fund raising potential–are far overshadowed by what Harper’s described as his “flagrantly misleading” solicitations for money. He has raised millions upon millions of dollars with various schemes, never mentioning that he does not need the money because he has $175 million and two “poverty palace” buildings in Montgomery. He has taken advantage of naive, well-meaning people–some of moderate or low incomes–who believe his pitches and give to his $175-million operation. He has spent most of what they have sent him to raise still more millions, pay high salaries, and promote himself.

Those words were written in 2007 by Stephen Bright, no slouch to civil rights and indigent defense himself. Despite this revelation, Dees and the SPLC continued to thrive, to soar to new heights of credibility and wealth on the backs of “naive, well-meaning people.”

In 2016, the King Center in Atlanta gave its highest honor to Mr. Dees: the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, according to an article on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.

It quotes Dr. Bernice A. King, Dr. King’s daughter, who leads the center, as saying that Mr. Dees “has tirelessly, and bravely championed the rights of the disenfranchised.”

Who is Morris Dees, the champion of the poor or a con man? Whichever he was, he’s now the goat of the SPLC, which has burned him at the stake for some unstated heresy, even as they dine on the vast wealth with which the organization is endowed at Dees’ hand.

Like Ira Glasser trying desperately not to speak ill of the ACLU for having abandoned its mission and lying its way through so the useful fools keep donating money, Dees will not tear down the organization he created even as the organization happily sacrifices him.

Mr. Dees said he learned of his firing in an email this week. On Thursday evening, he repeatedly said he would not “say anything negative about the center or its employees.”

What would an 82-year-old man have to do with the SPLC on a day-to-day basis, even if his technical association remained as far as the public was concerned? Did he come to the office every day, maybe grab a tush or tell a dirty joke. Had he done that since 1971, or only in his dotage? He obviously wasn’t at work this week, or Cohen could have told him to his face he was fired rather than learn it by email. Not even a phone call or a personal visit.

Whether a half-billion-dollar endowment is a big enough deal for an organization that does little more than prepare hate lists to justify some small degree of appreciation for Morris Dees, still adored for his battles against the Ku Klux Klan, it was not enough to save him from being burned at the stake and allowed to quietly be forced into social justice exile.

Update: At the LA Times, Matt Pearce eked some backstory out of the SPLC.

A letter signed by about two dozen employees — and sent to management and the board of directors before news broke of Dees’ firing — said they were concerned that internal “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism threaten the moral authority of this organization and our integrity along with it.”

Obviously, this provides no clue what actual conduct Dees is alleged to have done, but are the typical meaningless, conclusory claims that provide all the woke need to know.

22 thoughts on “Morris Dees Exposed (Update)

  1. Stan W

    I would agree with what you seem to be hinting at… It is most likely the woke scolds that got him.
    I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the dismissal, handing him a plaque, gold watch while congratulating him on his “retirement ” was not an option?
    Hell of a way to treat a founder of the center.
    *but then again he is an old rich white guy.

    1. SHG Post author

      Maybe Dees did something truly horrible. Who can tell from the empty rhetoric that passes for meaningful substance these days? But even so, it’s insufficient to merely separate the heretic from the faithful. There must be punishment or the mob will be denied its vengeance and then turn on you.

          1. Jim P

            I’m from Memphis where Rick Dees got started. Rick Dees was my DJ, and Morris Dees is no DJ

  2. Catherine P Clements

    This was reported this am: But internal emails obtained by APR related to Dees’ firing appear to show that the problems — which employees said spanned from sexual harassment to gender- and race-based discrimination — were more systemic and widespread, creating an atmosphere over several years in which female and minority employees felt mistreated. The employees also said that they felt their complaints were either not heard or resulted in retaliation from senior staff. The spark that ignited the near-mutiny at SPLC appears to have been the resignation of senior attorney Meredith Horton, and an email she sent to senior leadership. That email noted the hardships women and employees of color faced at SPLC. It was forwarded by Cohen to all staff with a message that there would be a commitment within SPLC to address those concerns. [Ed. Note: Deleted per rules.]

    1. SHG Post author

      You may have missed the update. That said, any explanation based on “may have” is speculation, not explanation. The alternative to “may have” is “may not have.” The allegations, beyond being mere conclusory allegations, tell us nothing.

  3. szr

    I’m still having trouble believing this news.

    Morris Dees has always been forceful and pugnacious. He has pissed off plenty of people who work in the civil rights community over the years. I think Dees and Bright have been at odds for a long time, at least since the nomination fight over Judge Edward Earl Carnes.

    But Morris Dees was undeniably successful. He is supremely confident in his positions, and unsparingly critical of those who disagree. I’m honestly not sure if his success was achieved in spite of, or because of, his overpowering personality.

    No specific details about Dees’ alleged harassment have been reported. But Meredith Horton is an attorney and presumably knows how to use facts to convince someone of a conclusion. The absence of facts and conclusory statements seems telling.

  4. RedditLaw

    Maybe Mr. Dees said that R. Kelly was “guilty as Hell”.

    Seriously though, this is as simple as arithmetic. Half-a-billion dollars. The founder isn’t croaking fast enough for the subordinates to get their hands on the cash. The rest falls into place.

    The SPLC has stopped being about Southern, Poverty, or Law a long time ago. I don’t expect that it will return to those things, but the employees will continue to spend, spend, and spend some more.

    1. SHG Post author

      There’s no evidence that anyone is milking SPLC for money for improper purposes. It’s bad enough if you stick to facts.

      1. RedditLaw

        On the contrary, five hundred million dollars sitting there, not advancing the cause of civil rights, represents an enormous opportunity cost, and the people running the SPLC are responsible for that. The people running the SPLC are also paid extremely well, multiples of my salary while ignoring the original mission of the organization. In addition, the new mission sucks.

        Yesterday, I filed a sixty page brief, mostly about the First Amendment. In some sense, you could say that I am personally doing more to advance the cause of civil liberties than the SPLC with all of its lists of those to hate. Where’s my five hundred million dollars?

        1. SHG Post author

          Herp: “Spend, spend, spend…”
          Derp: “On the contrary, five hundred million dollars sitting there, not advancing the cause of civil rights, represents an enormous opportunity cost…”

          Pick a side and work it.

          1. RedditLaw

            Your’re slightly hurting my feelings over here. You wouldn’t want to impair my effectiveness as a First Amendment warrior, would you?

            Where’s PK? I am hoping that he logs in and tells his papa that PK’s goal in life is to learn to build fundraising lists of suckers and tell Daddy-Know-It-All at TechCorp. who to de-platform. It would break your heart.

            I was going to post a link to a picture of the SPLC Palace that Poverty Built in Montgomery, Alabama, but I when I looked at the picture, I started to feel sorry for whoever has to work in that Le Corbusier-looking monstrosity.

  5. Eddie S.

    Well since there’s nothing but speculation at this point, maybe someone caught him with a MAGA hat.

  6. Julia

    My guess, Dees did something “terrible” helping to hire/promote a bunch of woke new employees as money poured in. The key phrase is “A letter signed by about two dozen employees” (there is always this magic number “two dozen”, like a big crowd of two dozen people protesting a comedian).

    Meredith Horton’s tenure with the firm has been 10 months according to her LinkedIn. It’s unclear why she’s reported resigned, it’s her current position on LinkedIn plus she’s listed on the SPLC site while Morris Dees got purged already. According to the wayback machine, she’s got moved from Senior Staff to Leadership somewhere in February 2019 , without her title changing. In March they also added another 3 names to Leadership. There was also a resignation from Leadership in February – Lecia Brooks, an outreach director and a SJW, quit after 14+ years. Did the reporters conflate the 2 women or did MH, perhaps, use another woman’s resignation to advance her career goals?

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