New trustee elected at Board Meeting

Victor McTeer
May 02, 2013

Victor McTeer, a retired trial lawyer and one of the first African-American graduates of the College, has been named to the McDaniel College Board of Trustees at its annual meeting held on the Westminster campus April 27.

In 1969, McTeer became one of the first African-American graduates of Western Maryland College (now McDaniel) where he was named to the 1968 Associated Press Small College All-America Football team. In the summer of 1969, at the age of 20, McTeer volunteered to spend a summer as a member of the College’s Student Opportunities Service to live and work with black former sharecroppers at “Freedom City” in rural Washington County, Miss. Thereafter, McTeer determined that he would become a Mississippi lawyer who would fight for victims of historic discrimination in the Mississippi Delta.

After graduating in 1972 from Rutgers School of Law, Newark, N.J., McTeer returned to the Delta and began work as an activist lawyer. His first case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 1976, after successfully acquiring lower federal court injunctions barring a school district from firing two qualified women from teaching because they bore children out of wedlock as teenagers, McTeer successfully defended the decisions in argument before the nation’s highest court. In 1985, his clients won a first-ever federal jury verdict of $535,000 against the Ku Klux Klan for injuries sustained by five black women after Klansmen shot them on the streets of Chattanooga, Tenn.

The battle for civil rights, however, is only a part of McTeer’s legal legacy. McTeer was hired by plaintiffs and defendants in some of the largest and most controversial decisions, settlements and jury verdicts in the United States in cases involving civil rights, product liability, medical negligence, bad-faith claims against insurers, defamation, insurance defense and corporate commercial disputes. He would become one of the first African-American lawyers to handle state bonds as well as handle corporate, insurance defense and commercial litigation before trial juries in Mississippi. He was a member of the Mississippi legal team that gained the first-ever money settlement from tobacco companies for cigarette-related illness. He was selected for that team in part because, years earlier he joined the plaintiff legal team that handled the Mississippi case immortalized by John Grisham in his book “The Runaway Jury.”

In a career that lasted almost 40 years, civil rights icon, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, the Attorney General of the state of Mississippi, as well as countless individual and corporate plaintiffs and defendants have all been McTeer clients. Moreover, McTeer and his family have made charitable gifts, including scholarships and grants to benefit poor and deserving people in the state of Mississippi. He has given financial gifts to a number of educational institutions including McDaniel College, where he has donated an endowed scholarship in his name and the name of his longtime friend, confidant and mentor, McDaniel Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus, the Rev. Ira G. Zepp Jr.

McTeer has received awards for his legal work and philanthropy from diverse groups and institutions including Operation PUSH of Chicago, Ill. (1984); the Mississippi State Chapter of the NAACP (1984); the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for professional excellence (2008); the Dr. James Herbert White Preeminence Award for Philanthropy (2000); the Mississippi Association of Justice, formerly the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association, Lifetime Achievement Award  (2010); and, the Mississippi Center for Justice, which in 2010 named McTeer and his wife, Mercidees McTeer, “Champions of Justice,” for their service in law, education and philanthropy. In 1995, McTeer became the second person to be awarded the Mississippi Chief Justice Award annually given to a member of the Mississippi Bar by the Mississippi Supreme Court for a lifetime of public service to the people of the State of Mississippi.

In 2008, McTeer finally left the practice of law to join his wife, Mercidees, in retirement. Now living in Key West, Fla., McTeer maintains a home in Greenville, Miss. — the site of his award winning photography business. He still finds the time to sail his 42-foot sailboat, “Salvation,” in Key West and elsewhere or simply to travel around the world. Their daughter, Heather, now a college educator and attorney, is the former — and the first black and/or female — mayor of Greenville, Miss.; and son, Marcus, is CEO of Blue Delta LLC, a computer consulting firm for educational institutions.