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Top: Jewish FoundedOrganizations: Southern Poverty Law Center

Biography of Joe Levin
SouthernPoverty Law Center's
Jewish Co-Founder
LawPartner of Morris Dees
Mr.Levin's Publicly Available Biography Found at SPLC Website onMarch 29, 1999

Joe Levin, Jewish Co-Founder of Southern Poverty LawCenter

In the early 1960s, Joe Levin saw his University ofAlabama fraternity brother persecuted for expressing unpopularviews. Fellow students and the community at-large taunted Melvin Meyer, editor of the school newspaper,the Crimson White, because he courageously argued in favor ofintegration at a time when Alabama Governor George Wallace "stoodin the schoolhouse door" to prevent black students from enrollingat the state's largest college.

The harassment directed at Meyerpeaked when the Ku Klux Klan burned a 12-foot cross in front ofLevin's Jewish fraternity house in the early morning hours..

"Over time, that one incident forced me to re-evaluatethe traditional southern attitude I'd grown up with," Levinsays.

Levin grew up in Montgomery. He was in junior high schoolwhen Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on a city bus, the incidentwhich sparked a year-long bus boycott by Montgomery's black citizensand the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. But Levin, likemost of his white friends, was oblivious to the boycott's significance.

It wasn't until Levin witnessed the hate directed at Meyerthat his lifetime convictions were shaken.

"Prior to that time, I saw myself as a white southerner,"he says. "I had not experienced that kind of naked hatred.Once my eyes were opened, I couldn't ignore others who were persecutedaround me."

" Melvin's way was correct.The way I was instructed all my life was wrong," he says.

And Levin has spent the intervening years following "Melvin's way."

Joseph J. Levin Jr. was born in Montgomery in 1943. His fatherwas a lawyer with a commercial practice, and young Levin enteredlaw school, just as his family expected him to do. He earned hisjuris doctor degree from the University of Alabama in 1966.

After serving two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army,Levin returned to his home town to join his father's law practice.But the security of an established commercial practice left himunsatisfied. From the privacy of his office, he cheered anotheryoung Montgomery lawyer-Morris Dees-as he made headlines withthe successful representation of a series of underdogs in civilrights cases. Levin told Dees' brother he'd like to help in oneof these cases.

The two collaborated on a high-profile defense case whichearned the Associated Press's news story of the year. Though inexperiencedin civil rights practice, Levin was "a natural-born triallawyer, tireless and bright," Dees says. The two decidedto start the law firm that eventually evolved into the SouthernPoverty Law Center. "We worked well together and wanted thesame thing from the practice-a blend of exciting and sociallysignificant cases," says Dees.

As the Center's legal director from 1971 until 1976, Levinworked on more than 50 major civil rights cases. He argued thelandmark sex discrimination case, Frontiero v. Richardson, inwhich the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law givingpreferences to men in the military. He also argued and won Gilmorev. City of Montgomery in which the Supreme Court prohibited theuse of public recreational facilities by private academies seekingto avoid school desegregation.

In 1976, Levin left the Center to supervise President-electJimmy Carter's Justice Department transition team. He went onto serve as Special Assistant to the Attorney General and ChiefCounsel to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.In 1979, he entered the private practice of law in Washington,D.C.

Levin continued his connection to the Center by serving asits president and board chairman. In 1994, he opened a Centeroffice in Washington where his primary tasks were seeking supportfor the Center's long-term endowment and developing long-rangestrategies for its litigation and education programs.

In September 1996, Levin again returned to Montgomery to assumethe expanded position of president of the Center. His duties includethose of chief executive officer

"I'm personally delighted to have Joe back with Center,"says Dees. "He has unselfishly contributed thousands of hoursduring the past two decades as our president and chairman, providinga seasoned voice on many critical decisions. The Center has growndramatically in the past 26 years and requires an experiencedexecutive staff to keep it on a sound footing."

Levin has three daughters.

© Copyright Information.All rights reserved. SouthernPoverty Law Center.

MelvinMeyer, Jewish Editor of CRIMSON WHITE,
U. of Alabama Student Newspaper

The Biography of Joe Levin,the Jewish Co-Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center whichis located at the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center statesthat the persecution of a Jewish student at the University ofAlabama, Melvin Meyer, one of Mr.Levin's Jewish Fraternity brothers,allegedly caused him to consider starting an anti-white legalcenter to persecute white organizations, a law center which wouldconcentrate in a large part on extremist white groups as seenin Mr. Levin's statement, "Overtime, that one incident forced me to re-evaluate the traditionalsouthern attitude I'd grown up with." Thus, the SouthernPoverty Law Center's origination point may have been a reactionby a Jewish lawyer to an incident in which another Jew was involved.

The same Southern Poverty Law Center website pointsout that Morris Dees was the Law Partner of JoeLevin prior to their deciding to start the Southern PovertyLaw Center, stating, "Dees and his law partner JosephJ. Levin, Jr. saw the need for a non-profit organization dedicatedto seeking justice. In 1971, the two lawyers and civil rightsactivist Julian Bond founded the Southern Poverty Law Center."

In the early 1960s,Joe Levin saw his University of [Melvin Meyer] Alabama fraternity brother persecutedfor expressing unpopular views. Fellow students and the communityat-large taunted MelvinMeyer, editor of theschool newspaper, the Crimson White, because he courageously arguedin favor of integration at a time when Alabama Governor GeorgeWallace "stood in the schoolhouse door" to prevent blackstudents from enrolling at the state's largest college.

The harassment directedat Meyer peaked when the Ku Klux Klan burneda 12-foot cross in front of Levin's Jewish fraternity house in the earlymorning hours..

"Over time, thatone incident forced me to re-evaluate the traditional southernattitude I'd grown up with," Levin says.

Is it possible that the Southern Poverty Law Centerwas begun more to protect Jewish rights than Black rights basedupon the statement of Joe Levin thathe was greatly influenced by a symbolic and metaphorical freedomof speech and freedom of religion expression performed by theKu Klux Klan "in front of Levin's Jewish fraternityhouse in the early morning hours" at the Universityof Alabama?

To be honest, the answer probably does not matter.

Nevertheless, a book might be written on that subject,or, perhaps a university graduate thesis for an interested studenton the subject of "just what causes a civil rights law centerto begin?"


SouthernPoverty Law Center's
Claimed Support Base

The Southern Poverty Law Center claims that it receives hugesums of money from a support base of 400,000 contributors. Thisclaim is found on the SPLCInformation Page.

However, since the SPLC is not government sponsored, its filesmay not be available for public inspection.

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