MONTGOMERY, AL – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today named Board member Karen Baynes-Dunning interim President and CEO effective immediately. Baynes-Dunning has served on the SPLC Board of Directors since October 2017. She will hold the position while the SPLC begins an extensive, nation-wide search for a permanent leader. She succeeds Richard Cohen, who served as President and CEO since 2003.
The SPLC Board of Directors has retained Tina Tchen of Buckley LLP to lead a comprehensive review of the SPLC’s workplace culture and all of its operations. A permanent president will be named after this work has concluded.
Statement of Karen Baynes-Dunning, Interim SPLC President and CEO:
“It is an honor to be able to serve and help guide this vital institution in a time of needed growth and change. As we look inward to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace, our determination in fighting for justice and equality in this country and the communities we serve will not waver. The SPLC will always be a leader in tackling systemic and institutional racism and discrimination, combatting hate and extremism, and promoting anti-bias in our public schools. I am eager to serve and work closely with all staff as the Board begins a rigorous and transparent process for identifying the best possible candidate for long term leadership.”
Statement of Bryan Fair, Chair, SPLC Board of Directors:
“I know Karen to be a tireless advocate and fierce defender of children, youth and families who suffer economic hardship. A child of the South, Karen will help lead SPLC through this period of transition with the same determination she has demonstrated her entire working life. She is caring, collaborative and eager to help facilitate productive dialogue among staff and our partners in the fight for justice. The work goes on, and we are excited about all that we can achieve with Karen at the helm.”
Statement of Richard Cohen, Outgoing SPLC President and CEO:
“Karen is an excellent choice to lead SPLC through the important work of Tina Tchen and her team as they help SPLC establish a workforce that reflects the organization’s values: justice, truth, inclusion and equity. The SPLC staff are a group of talented and committed people, and their work will be well served by Karen’s leadership and compassion.”
About Karen Baynes-Dunning
Former Juvenile Court Judge Karen Baynes-Dunning has dedicated over 25 years to improving child and family serving systems. While practicing complex antitrust litigation in the headquarters of the nationally-renowned law firm Alston & Bird, Baynes-Dunning began her career of public service by providing pro bono legal assistance to youth charged with truancy. This experience propelled her to serve as the first Executive Director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program and Director of Program Development and Management for the Fulton County Juvenile Court in Atlanta, Georgia. Baynes- Dunning was then appointed to the juvenile court bench.
After many years, she left the bench to focus on research and policy, to address the underlying issues that propel families into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. She has served as the Associate Director for Governmental Services and Research at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government; and focused on educating the next generation of the workforce as a visiting professor at the Emory University School of Law and Associate Professor at the University of Alabama.
In 2012, the Federal District Court appointed Baynes-Dunning to monitor the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services as they work toward improving services and outcomes for children and families. She continues in that role, and assists other states with system reform.
Baynes- Dunning earned her B.A. in Politics from Wake Forest University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. She is married to retired Albany State University President Arthur Dunning, and together they have four sons and one grandson.