Morris Dees

2011 Justice Prize

Laureate Profile

Morris Dees gave up a successful business career to seek justice for victims of racial discrimination. A cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, he succeeded in securing the court-ordered integration of the all-white Montgomery, Alabama, YMCA and the Alabama state troopers, and in forcing the redistricting of the Alabama legislature. He and his organization have challenged the death penalty in Alabama and improved conditions in prisons and mental health facilities. Dees has also taken on hate groups, securing a $7 million verdict against the notorious United Klans of America for the family of a young black student who had been lynched by members of the Klan. His Teaching Tolerance classroom materials, designed to teach appreciation of diversity and democratic values, are widely used.