Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been fired. The organization announced the dismissal in a March 14 statement. No specific reason has been given for Dees’ firing. The civil rights group said in a statement:
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.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dees Said the Reason for the His Firing Was a ‘Personnel Issue’
Morris Dees is 82 years old. Shortly after news of firing was made public, Dees told the Associated Press that his dismissal was related to a “personnel issue.” The article sees Dees refer to the SPLC as a “wonderful organization.” Dees helped to found the SPLC in 1971 as a legal aid center for the underprivileged.
2. Dees Served as the Finance Director on Jimmy Carter’s Successful 1976 Presidential Campaign
At the time of writing, Dees’ profile has been deleted from the SPLC website. A cached version of that page says that Dees founded the center following a “successful business and law career.” That business was a direct mail book publishing organization that Dees began in college. Dees attained his law degree at the University of Alabama. In 1972, Dees was the financial director for Democrat George McGovern’s presidential campaign. He repeated the gig for Jimmy Carter’s successful 1976 presidential election.
3. Dees Was Portrayed by Corbin Bernsen in a 1991 Made-for-TV Movie
Prior to the film airing, the Los Angeles Times reported that the filming of the movie had been kept secret because of the amount of threats had been made on Morris Dees’ life. Despite the secrecy, producer Michael Shapiro told the Times that the film’s productions offices had been vandalized.
When the movie aired, Bernsen had been starring in the hit show, “L.A. Law.” Dees told the Los Angeles Times, “I don’t mean to put down “L.A. Law.” but I had never seen the program. I am not a program watcher. So I turned on the TV and watched it once, but he didn’t have much to do.” While Bernsen said filming the movie served to remind him how alive racist groups were in the U.S. People Magazine negatively reviewed the movie saying “the plot is constructed of the same spongy building blocks as most TV movies.”
4. Dees Is Married to His 5th Wife, Susan Star
According to an online profile, Dees is currently married to his fifth wife, Susan Star. In that bio, Dees said that he and his wife have five children between them in addition to 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Dees describes Star as an artist who makes tapestries and clothing. During that same interview, Dees says that the couple enjoying farming and gardening in their spare time.
5. One of Dees’ Marriages Ended After He Was Accused of Having an Affair With One of His Jurors
Dees first married Beverly Crum in his senior year of high school. The couple divorced in the last 1960s. Dees then married one of his employees, Maureene Buck. That marriage ended when Buck accused Dees of not being able to give up his mistress. His mistress, Vicki Booker McGaha, had been a juror in one of Dees’ cases, the murder trial for Thomas Whisenhant.
The couple had one daughter together. His third wife was Mary Farmer, the director of an abortion clinic. After that, Dees married Elizabeth Breen.