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Southern Poverty Law Center Fires Leader, Doesn't Say Why

Morris Dees helped launch the nonprofit in 1971
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2019 7:38 PM CDT
Updated Mar 15, 2019 2:27 AM CDT
Morris Dees, second from right, co-founded the SPLC in 1971.   (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Discovery Communications)

(Newser) – The Southern Poverty Law Center has fired one of its founders. Morris Dees helped launch the civil rights nonprofit organization, now known for tracking hate groups, in 1971. No reason was given, NPR reports. But in a statement, the SPLC, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., said the conduct of its employees must reflect its mission and values. "When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization," the statement said, "we take it seriously and must take appropriate action." Dees told the AP that it wasn't his decision to leave, saying only that it was a personnel issue.

"I devoted nearly 50 years of my life to it," he said of the organization, "and I'm proud of its work." A 1994 series in the Montgomery Advertiser found that Dees exerted tight control over the SPLC and its budget. Under Dees, the reporting found, staff members complained of discrimination against black employees, who said they felt threatened. The organization denied the allegations at the time. On Thursday, the organization said it was taking steps to make sure that "all voices are heard and all staff members are respected." An outside firm will be brought in to assess the workplace. (Read more Southern Poverty Law Center stories.)

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