May 1, 2002 Regular News Dees to speak at Bedell luncheon Dees to speak at Bedell luncheon Legendary civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center more than 30 years ago, will be the speaker at the Trial Lawyers Section’s Chester Bedell Memorial Luncheon at the Bar’s upcoming Annual Meeting.The luncheon, held on Friday, June 21, will continue with its annual theme of the “Independence of the American Lawyer.”And it might be hard to find a better example of that than Dees.Born and raised in Alabama, Dees has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement. He filed suit in 1968 to integrate the Montgomery YMCA and, with Joseph J. Levin Jr., founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971.The Center has been involved in several notable cases, including seeking the integration of Alabama state police and in landmark litigation against the Ku Klux Klan. In 1980, the center began Klanwatch in response to a resurgence in Klan activity.Lesser-known about Dees is that he was also a successful book publisher, beginning a company while an undergraduate at the University of Alabama. The firm specialized in national direct mail sales, and he continued that company even after graduating from the UA School of Law in 1960 and opening a law office in Montgomery.His company published much-needed sex education books for children and an aerospace encyclopedia in conjunction with NASA and the Smithsonian Institute. He sold the company in 1969.Dees has written several books, including his autobiography and a look at right-wing militias in America, and a TV movie, Line of Fire, has been made about his life. He was also active in both George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign and Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign, where he served as national finance director.In addition to litigation, the Southern Poverty Law Center also provides a tolerance education kit to over 75,000 schools across the country.To register for the Chester Bedell Memorial Luncheon, see the May issue of The Florida Bar Journal for convention schedule and registration forms, or visit the Bar’s Web site, www.FLABAR.org. Registration forms and schedules can also be accessed by clicking here.