Joseph J. Levin, Jr. co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971. As legal director from 1971 to 1976, Levin worked on more than 50 major civil rights cases. He argued the landmark sex discrimination case Frontiero vs. Richardson, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law giving preferences to men in the military.
In 1976, Levin joined the Carter administration, supervising the Justice Department’s transition team before serving as special assistant to the attorney general and then as chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 1979, he entered private practice in Washington, D.C., but continued his association with the SPLC by serving as its board chairman until 2003. Levin was also president of the SPLC from 1996 to 2003, when he became general counsel. He served as a board member from 1971 until 2009.