11/21/2005

Former SPLC Client Gets N.C. Award for Advocacy

A former Center client whose case led to the downfall of two of the nation's most militant Klan leaders has been honored with a prestigious award.

Bobby Person was one of five recipients of the 20th annual Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Given to North Carolina residents working to improve their communities, the awards are worth $25,000 — with $20,000 going to a North Carolina nonprofit organization of the winner's choosing and $5,000 given to the winner for personal use.

The awards were presented Saturday at a luncheon in Greensboro.

Person and Hilton Dunlap, both of the West End community in Moore County, won for advocacy. The two men, both retired prison guards, created a grassroots nonprofit organization, Voices for Justice, which fights racism.

They are currently working to get water and sewer services for five poor, predominantly black communities systematically excluded from basic services, such as water, sewer and police protection, as affluent white communities annexed areas up to and around these neighborhoods. Person and Dunlap have brought the communities together, obtained national publicity and put pressure on adjacent municipalities, like Pinehurst — site of last summer's U.S. Open golf tournament — to annex them and provide needed services.

Other award recipients were two Raleigh women who live and work with poor inner-city children and an Asheville woman who promotes teaching diversity.

In 1983, Person never dreamed that trying to win a promotion at the prison where he worked would result in the convictions of militant Klan leader Glenn Miller and his second-in-command, Stephen Miller, and the destruction of the Klan in North Carolina.

The Millers' Klan group terrorized Person and his family in an attempt to force him to give up his discrimination suit against the Department of Corrections. Instead of quitting, Person asked for help from the Southern Poverty Law Center. His struggle ultimately led to the banning of the Klan's paramilitary operations and a court order mandating that the Millers, who are not related, sever all ties with the group.

"Bobby Person is a courageous example of how one man, unwilling to submit to injustice, can make a real difference," said Center chief trial counsel Morris Dees, who handled Person's lawsuit.