IJ Receives Top Civil Rights Award From Dr. King’s SCLC

August 1, 2002

August 2002

IJ Receives Top Civil Rights Award From Dr. King’s SCLC

By Scott Bullock

When I called to let Andrew Archie know that he and the rest of his family were going to be able to keep the land he has lived on for more than 60 years, it was one of my proudest moments as a lawyer. That, frankly, was reward enough for me and my colleagues at IJ. But we were very honored in May to receive from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Jackson, Mississippi, its top award—the Drum Major for Justice Award. The SCLC, the civil rights group founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., presented the award to IJ and our local counsel, James E. Ross, Jr., in recognition of our successful defense of the property owners who fought the abuse of eminent domain by the State of Mississippi when it sought to take private land for the benefit of Nissan Motor Co.

IJ Senior Attorney Scott Bullock accepts the Southern Christian Leadership Conferenceís ìDrum Major for Justiceî Award for IJís successful defense of small property owners in Mississippi.

Earlier this year, the eminent domain cases against the Archies had been pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court, which had stayed all proceedings to allow the property owners to remain in their homes until the case was decided. Completely stymied in court, the State of Mississippi announced a stunning capitulation. It declared late on a Friday that Nissan would redesign the are around its truck manufacturing facility in Canton, Mississippi, so that the Archie family could hold on to their land and more than 10 family homes on the property. The state then dismissed its eminent domain lawsuits against the 24 acres of property owned by the family.

Accepting the SCLC award on behalf of the Institute, I dedicated it to the property owners. We would not have been able to win this battle if it were not for their heroic decision to stand up for their rights. Their epic struggle for their property rights was featured in everything from The New York Times to National Public Radio to ABC World News Tonight. And their ultimate victory is an inspiration to other property owners throughout the country fighting efforts by government to take property for private benefit.

Also attending the awards ceremony were IJ President Chip Mellor and Dunn Foundation Fellow in Constitutional Litigation Steve Simpson. The other members of our team, my co-counsel IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner and IJ Vice President for Communications John Kramer, were there in spirit if not in person. The ceremony was a wonderful way to celebrate this victory with the property owners and their community supporters, in particular Stephanie Parker-Weaver of the local SCLC, whose commitment to the property owners throughout this case was unyielding.

The Drum Major for Justice Award is an annual award given to an individual or organization that exemplifies the non-violent organizing principles of Dr. King. It is named after a sermon called “The Drum Major Instinct” delivered by him shortly before his assassination:

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. Say that I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things in life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.

Our award reads to “Scott G. Bullock and the Institute for Justice For the Protection of Private Property Rights in Mississippi.” We thank the SCLC for this honor.

Scott Bullock is an Institute for Justice senior attorney.

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