Morris Dees

This week in Chicago, the American Bar Association hosted its annual convention. And among those who were honored by the national lawyers group was Morris Dees. He received the ABA Medal, its highest award.

I got the chance to meet Dees in 2005, when he was the keynote speaker at the annual State Bar of Arizona Convention. He spoke eloquently about the hard work of civil rights litigation. It was an impressive appearance.

After he left the stage, I wrangled 20 minutes from him before he could dart to the airport. He has been involved in remarkable and sometimes dreadful chapters in American civil rights history. But scratch the surface of anyone who is doing real good in the legal profession, though, and you come up with the identical foundation: hard work, long hours and a commitment to ideals. In other words, he was like many other great lawyers I’ve known.

Here is my Q&A with Morris Dees.

What really pleased me was hearing about his non-legal beginnings, when he and Millard Fuller, his co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, were direct-mail experts. Turns out, that’s a perfect training ground for people who listen to clients’ needs and try to solve their problems.

Click here for a video from the ABA, commemorating Dees’s award (Dees starts talking at 6:30). Congratulations.

And here is more on the award and on Morris Dees from the ABA.

Morris Dees receives the ABA Medal, August 7, 2012.