Morris Dees, Founder and Chief Trial Attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center will be the featured speaker at the Jacksonville Branch NAACP 46th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Dinner according to Isaiah Rumlin, President of the Jacksonville Branch NAACP. The dinner will be held Thursday, June 23, 2011 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, 1000 Water St. Jacksonville, Florida and will begin at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $60.00.
In 1967, lawyer Morris Dees had achieved extraordinary business and financial success with his book publishing company. The son of an Alabama farmer, he witnessed firsthand the painful consequences of prejudice and racial injustice. He 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 not intended to voluntarily share it. "I had made up my mind. I would sell the company as soon as possible and specialize in civil rights law," Dees said. "All the things in my life that had brought me to this point, all the pulls and tugs of my conscience, found a singular peace. It did not matter what my neighbors would think, or the judges, the bankers, or even my relatives."
Out of this deeply personal moment grew the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Known for his innovative lawsuits that crippled some of America’s most notorious white supremacist hate groups, Morris Dees has received more than 20 honorary degrees and numerous awards. Those include Trial Lawyer of the Year from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association. He was named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal in 2006.
In addition, the University of Alabama Law School and the New York law firm Skadden, Arps jointly created the annual Morris Dees Justice Award to honor a lawyer devoted to public service work. Dees has written three books: A Season For Justice, his autobiography; Hate on Trial: The Case Against America’s Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi; and Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat. In 1991, NBC aired a made-for-TV movie called “Line of Fire” about Dees and his landmark legal victories against the Ku Klux Klan.
According to President Rumlin, “Morris Dees continues the impressive slate of Freedom Fund Awards Dinner speakers. He brings a global perspective on the current state of the Civil Rights Struggle, as well as the ongoing fight against hatred and racism. He continually risks his life daily in the fight for human dignity and respect”.
In addition to individual dinner tickets, information on corporate tables, and sponsors is available by calling the NAACP office at 904 764-7578, Isaiah Rumlin at 904 764-1753, Sandra Thompson at 904 768-1086, Elnora Atkins at 904 768-8697 or Rodney Hurst at 904 764-9038.