Julian Bond and the SPLC

As Morris Dees points out in his 1991 autobiography, “A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), the first thing his fledgling organization needed was a steady supply of cash.

In 1971, with Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern’s donor list of 700,000 self -identified liberals in hand, Dees prepared the first SPLC fund raising request for mass mailing.

Dees realized that in order to persuade people to donate money to a completely unknown cause he would have to have a famous “name” which donors would recognize. To this end, Dees turned to famed civil rights activist, Julian Bond, whom he had never met, and offered him the “largely honorary position” of president of the SPLC.

This classic marketing technique, celebrity endorsement or testimonial, worked as planned and Dees got his first 500 donors.[1]

Julian Bond, who would later go on to head the NAACP, likes to claim that he was a co-founder of the SPLC in his literature, however, there is little evidence that he played any role beyond lending, or possibly renting, his name to Dees. Bond only receives three short paragraphs in Dees’ book and is not mentioned again anywhere in the remaining 200 pages.

Although Dees does not mention any money changing hands, it’s highly unlikely, though not impossible, that Bond would agree to endorse an unknown start-up group he had never heard of for free. The SPLC’s current president, Richard Cohen, is compensated more than $350,000 a year. [2]

To this day, both Bond and the SPLC play up Bond’s meaningless figurehead “presidency” in their press releases.


[1] Dees, Morris S., 1991, A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), p. 132

[2] SPLC IRS Form 990, p. 40 (http://www.splcenter.org/pdf/static/SPLC990_2007.pdf)

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