NAACP Legal Defense Fund Appoints Leading Civil Rights Attorney John Payton as Director-Counsel and President

Dec 07, 2007, 00:00 ET from NAACP Legal Defense Fund

    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
 Bar Association.
     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,"
 said Payton.
     "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.
     To schedule media interviews, please contact Neil Grace at or (202) 530-4558. For additional information, contact
 Mel Gagarin at or (212) 965-2783.
     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