WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- John Payton, an attorney
known for his successful record in some of the most important and visible
civil rights cases in the United States, has been named Director-Counsel
and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). Payton brings a wealth
of experience, including cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, in
leading the LDF in its fight for racial and social justice.
"This is both a very exciting and a very humbling moment for me. I have
always admired The Legal Defense Fund: it is an historic organization with
an important mission," said John Payton. "Racial justice and equality are
issues that I deeply care about, and being at the LDF will allow me to be
involved in that fight every day."
As lead counsel for the University of Michigan, Payton argued the
affirmative action admissions case successfully before the trial court,
appeals court, and ultimately before the Supreme Court. The New York Times
described the case as one that "galvanized affirmative action advocates who
produced sociological studies documenting how a diverse campus enhances the
educational and long-term life experiences for all students."
Known as a 'lawyer's lawyer' among colleagues and friends, Payton also
participated in other landmark cases. He represented the American Legacy
Foundation in its suit against a large tobacco company and represented the
NAACP in a suit brought by white merchants in Mississippi. He has also
served as Co-Chair of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights and as
President of the District of Columbia Bar and is a member of the American
As director of the LDF, Payton hopes to raise awareness of the growing
disparities among Americans. "Today, our country has perhaps its highest
rate of wealth and income inequality, which is exacerbated when race is
taken into account. The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans was a disaster
before Katrina. There are many other Lower Ninth Wards across the country,"
"LDF is extremely fortunate to have the leadership and service of John
Payton," said Vernon E. Jordan, Jr, Managing Director at Lazard Freres &
Co, and LDF Board Member. "He is a first-class lawyer, with experience and
commitment to the cause of equal justice. It is an enormous coup for LDF."
"John is one of the great civil rights lawyers of his generation and a
great protector of diversity and equal opportunity in America," said
Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express Company. "His
accomplishments make him well-suited to follow in the footsteps of Thurgood
Marshall as Director-Counsel of LDF."
Harvard Law School Professor, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., a law school
class mate and friend of Payton said, "This appointment is the best news I
have heard concerning the civil rights movement in many years! John's
talents as a lawyer, manager, and public servant make him uniquely suited
to assume the role held in the past by great lawyers like Charles Hamilton
Houston and Thurgood Marshall. He is the quintessential civil rights
Mr. Payton will be LDF's sixth director counsel and president,
succeeding Ted Shaw. "John Payton is a very good friend and colleague,"
said Shaw. "I am deeply gratified that he will now bring his expertise and
leadership to the Legal Defense Fund."
Payton has most recently been a partner at the Washington law firm of
Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr. He is a graduate of Pomona
College and Harvard Law School.
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About the NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Founded in 1940 under the
leadership of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal
Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the nation's oldest civil rights law
advocacy organization. It won the historic U.S. Supreme Court school
desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. It has also
been involved in most of the precedent-setting minority voting rights
litigation and legislation in the U.S., including the Voting Rights Act of
1965 and its 1982 amendments, and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
SOURCE NAACP Legal Defense Fund