Archive for August, 2009

Julian Bond and the SPLC

August 31, 2009

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 (

A brief history of the SPLC

August 30, 2009

 The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1971, by local attorney Morris Dees and his partner, Joe Levin.

Although the organization had no mandate, its stated goal of bringing justice to poor southerners through strategic law suits was laudable.

Morris Dees was born in Alabama in 1936. As a student at the University of Alabama in the late 1950s, Dees and a classmate, Millard Fuller, started a highly successful small business, delivering birthday cakes to fellow students at the university.[1]

 The cake business grew, generating nearly half a million dollars, according to Dees, and was his introduction to the lucrative field of direct mail marketing. After graduating from law school, Dees and Fuller moved to Montgomery, where they opened a small law office.

At the same time, the two men also created one of the most successful mail order companies in the country, which would soon make them both millionaires. Business was so good that Dees and Fuller opted to close the law office and concentrate solely on mail order.

 By 1968, Millard Fuller sold his half of the business to Dees, gave away much of his money as part of a spiritual reevaluation of his life, and would later go on to found Habitat for Humanity.

In 1969, Dees sold his mail order company for $6 million dollars.

In 1971, Dees was contacted by Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern, because of his expertise in the field of direct mail marketing. Dees agreed to help McGovern with his campaign fund raising in exchange for McGovern’s 700,000 member mailing list.

Armed with McGovern’s mailing list, Dees, with his new partner, Joe Levin, decided to open the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama.

The SPLC is therefore a private venture, with no mandate. It was created entirely at the whim of Morris Dees and Joe Levin. The importance of this single fact cannot be overstated as it is the basis for all subsequent actions by the SPLC.


[1] A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” 1991,  (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.), p. 79

Watching the self-appointed watchdogs

August 30, 2009

Welcome to Watching the Watchdogs. Our purpose here is to examine the publications and pronouncements of the Southern Poverty Law Center and other self-appointed “hate watchdogs” attempting to influence public policy.

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