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Published: Tuesday, 4/8/2008

Southern Poverty Law Center leader to give speech

Morris Dees, the Alabama lawyer who gave up a lucrative publishing career to help found the Southern Poverty Law Center, will be the keynote speaker at this year's 2008 Access to Justice Awards dinner.

The dinner, sponsored by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc., Legal Aid of Western Ohio Inc., and the Toledo Bar Association, will be at 6 p.m. tomorrow at The Pinnacle in Maumee.

Nellie Edwards, a former investigator with the Toledo Fair Housing Center; University of Toledo law professor Gabrielle Davis, and U.S. District Judge David Katz will receive Access to Justice Awards during the dinner.

Mr. Dees was involved in anti-discrimination lawsuits in the 1960s and 1970s, and in 1971 co-founded the law center with his law partner, Joseph Levin, Jr., and civil rights activist Julian Bond.

Although Mr. Dees is from Alabama, Ohio played a crucial - if unplanned - role in his decision to abandon a profitable direct-mail sales company and work in civil rights litigation.

In 1967, he spent a night of "soul-searching" at a Cincinnati airport when his flight was delayed by snow. By the time he arrived in Chicago, he was resolved to pursue civil rights law, according to the law center's Web site.

Tickets are $75, and are available from ABLE at 419-930-2517.

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