Here’s an interesting tidbit regarding Southern Poverty Law Center Co-Founder and sole owner, Morris Dees. According to Dees’ own words, the man has openly confessed, twice no less, to having committed a violent felony under Alabama law in 1983 and is still at large.
The link to this confession came to us through none other than Dees’ long-time Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok. In 2008, Potok was giving a group of Vermont high school teachers and students a personal tour of SPLC headquarters in Montgomery. During the hour-long interview, the audio file for which can be found here on the Internet Archive, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a television news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and so the SPLC stepped in.
“About a year later… well, we sued very quickly… well, it was shortly after that, and we easily won a judgment against Berry. You know, this was absolutely false imprisonment, right? I mean, it was a felony crime.”
Absolutely false imprisonment… A felony crime…
This passage got us to thinking about another anecdote we remembered about someone else holding someone at shotgun point. On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season For Justice, Morris Dees brags about holding a shotgun to the head of his good pal, and best paying Klan client, Claude Henley.
(Interestingly, Mr. Dees repeats the claim on page 101 of his second autobiography in 2003, A Lawyer’s Journey: The Morris Dees Story, which was a page-for-page reprint of Season, with one additional chapter tacked on the end. Most authors would refer to such a reprint as an updated or revised edition of the original title, but Mr. Dees opted to resell the same book under a different title.)
In both autobiographies, Dees writes of inviting friend Henley to his law office after an arson attack on the first SPLC headquarters, which Dees believed was committed by the United Klans of America (UKA). When the unsuspecting Klan thug shows up, Dees dials up Henley’s boss, UKA Imperial Wizard Bobby Shelton, on the speakerphone.
Below is Dees’ account of what happened next. Granted, we only have Dees’ word for it, but why would he lie to us? Twice? CAUTION: Mr. Dees has a fondness for expletives:
Admittedly, we know even less about the law than even Mark Potok, but if Jeff Berry holding reporters at shotgun-point is a no-brainer felony, why isn’t the exact same act a felony crime for Morris Dees?
“Ah, well,” some may say, “this is ancient history from 1983 and surely the statute of limitations has long since expired.” In other words, Dees is bragging and making crude little jokes because they can’t touch him, right?
Au contraire! Under Alabama state law, (Statute: AL § 15-3-1 et seq, to be precise), while most felonies have a mere 3-year statute of limitations, “Any felony involving the use, attempted use, or threat of, violence to a person” has NO such limitation.
Clearly, Morris Dees bragging that he threatened to blow Henley’s head off its stump, in thousands of published books, no less, is every bit as viable a felony as if Dees had actually pulled the trigger all those years ago.
The confessed felon has been at large for more than thirty years now. It’s time for the squeaky Wheels of Justice to pull up in front of the Poverty Palace in Montgomery and get this violent individual off the streets.
Is there a real lawyer in the house?
By the way, the Potok interview is even more interesting for some of the other claims he makes, which ought to give any intelligent donor pause.
“In the 70’s… “poverty law” was actually the phrase… it was a phrase used that just applied to… essentially… civil rights law… to kind of human rights legal actions.”
“I know a couple years ago there was a big discussion internally [at the SPLC], ‘Should we change our name to something else?’ People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is. By that time, people knew the name so well that, you know, we made, I think, the obviously right decision not to change the name.”
“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.” Interesting.
“I think a lot of people feel, ‘Oh, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, they find, you know, the two hundred Nazis running around the country, they build them up into great big groups, they make a big deal about it and then ask for your money,’ right? In other words, it’s kind of a scam. You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.”
“I don’t know if that answered your question. We did a lot of different kind of cases that were all over the, kind of, civil rights map. There was a lot of death penalty defense work done here in the early years. We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.”
“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” And how many of those lawyers have a $302 million-dollar cash reserve, Mr. Potok? Mo Dees got out of the civil rights business because he wanted Mo’ Money.
And most telling of all:
“We see this political struggle, right? And it’s very different from what Teaching Tolerance does, right? I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them. Not to send them to prison unfairly or not take their free speech rights away… but as a political matter, to destroy them.”
“We don’t want to take their free speech rights away… we just want to destroy them,” for expressing their free speech opinions, regardless of how offensive some may find them, Mr. Potok? We may not like what they have to say, but if a private fundraising company like yours has the power to “destroy” people for “thought crimes” then what’s holding you back? Oh yeah, that whole Dead-White-Guy Constitution thing.
Well, consistency was never your strong suit, Mr. Potok. Here’s a thought, turn in your felonious boss and collect the reward.