In this landmark sex discrimination case, two Alabama women applied for jobs traditionally reserved for men. One sought to become a state trooper, the other a correctional officer; both were rejected. The Supreme Court's landmark decision in favor of the women opened doors nationwide for women to be hired in law enforcement careers.
Conditions in Alabama's prisons were an inhumane nightmare - violent, overcrowded and unsanitary. In a 1976 landmark ruling, a federal judge declared the prisons "wholly unfit for human habitation" and ordered detailed reforms.
As late as 1972, there was not a single African American Alabama state trooper in a state that is one-quarter black. African Americans were refused jobs as troopers, but were easily hired as janitors. The SPLC filed suit, challenging the state's blatant racial discrimination.
In the early 1970s, several private segregated academies were allowed to use public recreational facilities in Montgomery, Ala., for football and baseball games – a practice that meant taxpayers were subsidizing these all-white schools as the public school system was being integrated. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court finding the city’s practice unconstitutional.
The SPLC rectified a 20-year injustice in 1972 when a federal court ordered the paving of 10 miles of streets in an unincorporated black neighborhood near Selma in Dallas County, Ala. The new streets had to be equal in quality to those installed free in adjacent white neighborhoods in 1954.
A married female Air Force officer sued the U.S. Department of Defense to secure the same benefits enjoyed by married male officers. The Center's historic challenge led to a landmark Supreme Court decision, the first successful sex discrimination lawsuit against the federal government.
This suit forced Alabama to reapportion its state legislature and discard the voting system that diluted the voting strength of African Americans. The result was the adoption of single-member districts and the 1974 election of 15 black legislators.
When Montgomery, Alabama, closed its public parks and pools rather than integrate them, the local YMCA took over the city's recreational needs. As the YMCA continued to exclude blacks, Center co-founder Morris Dees sued and won a landmark court order that forced the YMCA to integrate its programs.