The Southern Poverty Law Center has fired Morris Dees, the civil rights organization’s co-founder and former chief litigator.
Dees, 82, co-founded the Montgomery-based organization in 1971. SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement Dees’ dismissal was effective on Wednesday, March 13. “Effective yesterday, Morris Dees’ employment at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was terminated. As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is 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.“Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we’re taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve – one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected.
“The SPLC is deeply committed to having a workplace that reflects the values it espouses – truth, justice, equity and inclusion, and we believe the steps we have taken today reaffirm that commitment.”
A message seeking further comment was left on Cohen’s cell phone Thursday afternoon.A 1994 Montgomery Advertiser series provided a deep look into the organization controlled by the multimillionaire Dees, illustrating his near-singular control over the organization and its mammoth budget.It revealed a figure seen as heroic by some and single-minded by others who criticized Dees as more focused on raising money than actually fighting injustice.
The series also alleged discriminatory treatment of black employees within the advocacy group, despite its outward efforts to improve the treatment of minorities in the country.
Staffers at the time “accused Morris Dees, the center’s driving force, of being a racist and black employees have ‘felt threatened and banded together.’”
The organization denied the accusations raised in the series.