Biography: Childhood and Family History
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Taking a look at his childhood, it was not evident that Morris Dees Jr. would become a civil rights lawyer leading a revolution against hate groups in the United States. In fact, looking at his childhood and academic career until high school, it seemed that Morris Dees Jr. would become a preacher at the Pike Road Baptist Church. However, in the latter years of his high school career, he leaned towards the occupation of an entrepreneur, already earning himself nearly $5000 a year.

In his childhood, Morris Dees's future looked toward the agricultural path. Both his father and his grandfather were a tenant farmers. The life of a tenant farmer in the early part of the 20th century wasn't easy. Morris Dees Sr. did not want his son to follow in his footsteps. He wanted his son to become a lawyer.

Morris Dees Jr. was known as "Bubba" to his friends and family. He grew up in the South in a place called Mount Meigs, Alabama. Because he came from a line of tenant farmers, he worked on the farm from the time he could lift a hoe. Cotton was the king crop of the south. Being such, his family farmed cotton.

Family HistoryDees Family Photo : His family came from a line of Scots. They sailed to America in the early 18th century. From Coastal North Carolina, the Dees family migrated across the south and eventually into central Alabama.

The Dees family never owned a single piece of land while they were in America. Because they were tenant farmers, their lives were always changing. The possibility of their leases being terminated caused them to constantly move from one home to another. It was a life of packing and moving. However, the Dees family finally owned some land when Morris Seligman Sr. purchased 110 acres of the Wigglesworth Estate in Mount Meigs.

Morris Seligman Dees Sr. was born in 1909 to Arthur Lee Dees. Morris Dees Sr. was named after a Jewish Merchant in Montgomery, whom Grandpa Dees admired. Morris Seligman Dees Sr. was the oldest of eight children. When Arthur Lee Dees died, Morris Sr. dropped out of high school and worked on the farm to support his family. He did not have a chance to get an education that would allow him to escape the life of a tenant farmer. The dream of escaping such a life would have to be lived through his son.

Morris Dees Jr.'s maternal great grandfather served in Joe Wheeler's Confederate Cavalry during the Civil War. He fought for the superiority of the whites in the South. His maternal grandfather was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. His mother, Annie Ruth Dees, was a devout Christian. As a child, she did not question her father and his secretive actions. She did not know nor understand what he did. When she became an adult, she learned that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. However, when Annie Ruth Dees grew up, she interpreted the Bible and its teachings more literally than her friends in the South. She believed that to be true to the Christian faith, she had to be kind to all of God's children, which (to her) including Blacks. Morris Jr. recalled times when his mother sat at the kitchen table with some of the Black hands that worked on the farms. She would help them fill out forms to social services or help them apply for welfare. She even let them sit on the table! Not only so, but she spoke to them. She spoke to them in conversation and enjoyed it. Many of the blacks in the vicinity knew to come to Annie Ruth Dees for help or just plain conversation.



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