On pages 84-85 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice*, SPLC founder Morris Dees brags about accepting $5,000 dollars from the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to represent one of their members in federal court.
On May 20, 1961, when a busload of black and white Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, they were met with what Time magazine described as “An idiot, club-swinging mob of about 100…” The idiot leading the mob was one Claude Henley.
More photos of Henley’s handiwork from LIFE magazine here (pages 22-25)
In 1962, with an arraignment in federal court hanging over his head, Henley went to visit Morris Dees at his law office. Dees says that he was on the verge of agreeing to represent the Klan thug for $500 dollars until Henley mentioned that another lawyer had wanted $15,000 to take the case. Dees seized the moment and said he would do the job for “only” $5,000.
(It should be mentioned that in 1962, $5,000 dollars was the median income for a family of four. To put it in perspective, that sum would be worth roughly $33,000 dollars today.)
Dees took the case, and despite the appearance in Life magazine of a photograph of Henley attacking a photographer during the riot, Dees had no trouble getting Henley off scott-free.
In essence, Morris Dees has gotten more Klansmen out of prison than he’s ever sent there.
Dees wrote that after the Henley case he had an epiphany and had arrived at a “turning point.” Apparently, not to the point of turning the money over to the victims or to charity, however. Dees cashed the Klan’s check and kept the money.
Perhaps even more damning is that within pages of describing his work for Claude Henley, Dees writes that he and his partner closed their law office soon after in order to devote their full attention to their hugely successful mail order business.
Dees, who made his first million while still in law school, didn’t need the Klan’s money.
And with that kind of money behind him, Henley was far from indigent. Also, given the substantial sum involved, one has to wonder if the Montgomery Klan simply picked Dees out of the phone book at random, or if they had prior dealings with him in the past?
Anyone who has read much SPLC propaganda knows that one of their favorite spin techniques is to smear individuals based on the most tenuous of past associations. By all SPLC definitions, Morris S. Dees is a Klan lawyer.
*“A Season for Justice: The life and times of civil rights lawyer Morris Dees,” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.)