* 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration:

January 7, 2007

Civil rights lawyer Dees to speak at Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

Morris Dees
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A lecture by award-winning civil rights trial lawyer Morris Dees on Jan. 21 is one of several events during Purdue University's 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration "Affirming the Dream XIII: Walk the Talk."

Dees is co-founder and chief trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center. His talk, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse.

"Each year we find new ways to honor Dr. King's life and memory," said Alysa Christmas Rollock, vice president for human relations. "Mr. Dees has a wonderful record of service to others through education and the legal system."

A Day of Service followed by an appreciation luncheon also are scheduled for Jan. 21. Volunteers can register to help area nonprofit organizations by calling (765) 496-2450 by Jan. 17. Check-in and continental breakfast will be at 9 a.m. in Shreve Hall. Volunteer work in the community will take place between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The luncheon will be from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Shreve Hall.

The talk and Day of Service cap a series of events at Purdue to commemorate King.

The Gifts-in-Kind drive to collect non-food items at campus drop-off points continues. Collection boxes at several university buildings will be in place through Jan. 15 for donations of family health items such as soap, deodorant, shampoo and baby products, along with underwear, socks, hats, mittens and gloves. A complete list of these items is posted at each collection site.

Boilers Care-and-Share will be Saturday (Jan. 12). Students who live in residence halls can leave a donation bag filled with non-food items in front of their door for pickup. The bags will be collected between 10 a.m. and noon. The items will be donated to the Food Finders Food Bank Inc., which serves 16 Indiana counties, including Tippecanoe.

On Jan. 16, the Diversity Resource Office will present a workshop called Speak Up! The interactive workshop provides an opportunity to learn ways to speak up and respond to everyday bigotry.

Dees graduated from the University of Alabama law school in 1960 and began practicing law in Montgomery, Ala. He also continued to operate a book publishing company that specialized in nationwide direct mail sales, which he started while an undergraduate student at Alabama.

In his autobiography "A Season For Jusice," Dees had what he called "a night of soul searching" while snowed in at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport in 1967. That was when he decided to devote his life to a new mission – the civil rights movement. He sold his company in 1969 and in 1971, with law partner Joseph J. Levin, Jr., and civil rights activist Julian Bond, founded the Southern Poverty Law Center. The nonprofit organization says its mission is to seek justice.

As a civil rights attorney, Dees filed suit to prevent the building of an all-white university in an Alabama city that already had a predominantly black state college. In 1969, he sued to integrate the all-white Montgomery, Ala., YMCA.

He has won, or played a part in winning, multimillion lawsuits against the Ku Klux Klan, the United Klans of America, the White Aryan Resistance and Aryan Nations. He also has been involved in landmark cases against neo-Nazi groups.

Dees has received several awards, including Trial Lawyer of the Year from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice in 1987, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association in 1990 and the Roger Baldwin Award from the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2001, the National Education Association named him the recipient of the Friend of Education Award, its highest honor, for his "exemplary contributions to education, tolerance and civil rights."

The University of Alabama School of Law established the "Morris Dees Award" in 2006 to honor him.

Dees' lecture, the Day of Service and other Martin Luther King Jr. events are sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Human Relations in collaboration with the Diversity Resource Office, Black Cultural Center, African American Studies and Research Center, Office of the Vice President for Housing and Food Services, Latino Cultural Center, Native American Educational and Cultural Center and the Boiler Volunteer Network.

Greg McClure: (765) 494-9394,

Source: Alysa Christmas Rollock, vice president for Human Relations, (765) 494-5830,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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