News Release: Zepp Lecture at McDaniel features Two Celebrated Civil Rights Attorneys

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April 11, 2017

April 10, 2017

Contact: Cheryl Knauer



Discussion features honorary doctor of laws degree recipients C. Victor McTeer, a 1969 McDaniel alumnus and member of the college’s board of trustees, and James Bell, an attorney and juvenile justice advocate

“Dissenters from the Indifference” is Thursday, April 20, 7:30 p.m., in Decker Center Forum

WESTMINSTER, Md. – C. Victor McTeer and James Bell, two celebrated civil rights attorneys and honorary doctor of laws degree recipients from McDaniel College, speak at the college’s Zepp lecture on Thursday, April 20, 7:30 p.m. The discussion, led by McDaniel President Roger N. Casey, is titled “Dissenters from the Indifference.” Free and open to the public, the event takes place in Decker Center Forum at McDaniel, 2 College Hill, Westminster, Md. 

The discussion title is excerpted from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s remarks when he was awarded the Medal of Liberty in Philadelphia on July 4, 1992, six months before his death: 

“I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” 

C. Victor McTeer is a 1969 McDaniel alumnus and member of the college’s board of trustees. A native of Baltimore, he is one of the college’s first African-American graduates. The Commencement speaker at McDaniel in 2015, he was also the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree.

After graduating from Rutgers School of Law in 1972, McTeer worked as an activist lawyer in the Mississippi Delta. At the age of 25, McTeer became the first black Mississippi lawyer since the Reconstruction period to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court, which he won.

Throughout his career, he pursued claims of people in cases involving voting rights, employment discrimination, housing discrimination and Constitutional law. In the mid-1970s, he sued numerous Mississippi Delta cities to end the historic refusal of white-controlled municipalities to provide black citizens with the same amenities as white citizens. In 1981, he was part of a legal team that gained the first-ever money damage award against a faction of the Ku Klux Klan after a federal jury heard his closing argument. 

He also became one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in anti-smoking cases, including the case against the American Tobacco Company that was the basis for John Grisham’s fictional account, “The Runaway Jury.” In the 1990s, McTeer joined the legal team representing the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi to pursue claims against cigarette manufacturers, which resulted in the largest civil settlement in history. 

James Bell, an attorney and juvenile justice advocate, has spearheaded a national movement to address racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. He served as the Commencement speaker at McDaniel in 2016 and was the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree.

In 2001, he founded the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI), which helps to protect and improve the lives of youth of color and poor youth. BI earned the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, which is presented to select organizations worldwide for their remarkable work within their fields. 

He guides the BI’s Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY), a national network of programs working successfully with young people of color. He also works closely with the Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative jurisdictions and the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative. In addition, he has extensive experience in the international juvenile justice arena.

Bell, who holds a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law, is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship; the Livingstone Hall Award from the American Bar Association; Attorney of the Year from the Charles Houston Bar Association; and the Advocate of the Year from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. He has also appeared on “Nightline” and “The Tavis Smiley Show,” as well as authored the “Unequal Justice” section of the “Covenant with Black America” and the “Criminal Justice Policy Paper” for the National Black/Latino Summit.
The annual Ira G. Zepp, Jr., Memorial Lecture honors Ira Zepp, a devoted member of the McDaniel faculty for more than 40 years and a human rights activist who died in 2009. He advocated the acceptance of gays, civil rights and women’s rights and marched with civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Ala. The lecture and day-in-residence honoring Zepp rotates among four academic departments, sociology, religious studies (Zepp’s department), environmental studies, and political science and international studies, every two years.

More information about Victor McTeer can be found at Visit to hear his 2015 Commencement speech. 
Visit for more information about James Bell. Hear his 2016 Commencement speech at

For more information about McDaniel College, visit or call 410-857-2290. 

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Editor’s Note:  Images of C. Victor McTeer and James Bell are available for download.

Additional information:  Requests for interpreters are welcome and can be made up to one week prior to the event by contacting Other accommodation requests can be directed to Conference Services at 410-857-2212.

McDaniel College, founded in 1867 and nationally recognized as one of 40 “Colleges That Change Lives,” is a four-year, independent college of the liberal arts and sciences offering more than 70 undergraduate programs of study, including dual and student-designed majors, plus 25 highly regarded graduate programs. Its personalized, interdisciplinary, global curriculum and student-faculty collaboration develop the unique potential in every student. A diverse, student-centered community of 1,600 undergraduates and 1,400 graduate students, McDaniel offers access to the resources of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and is the only American college with a European campus in Budapest, Hungary.