Social justice dinner to honor Mercidees & Victor McTeer, Bill Ray

September 28, 2010

The Mississippi Center for Justice will honor Mercidees and Victor McTeer, philanthropists and activists who have dedicated themselves to improving public education throughout the Mississippi Delta, and Bill Ray, President and CEO of BankPlus, for their commitment to equality and justice for all during its annual Champions of Justice Dinner. The dinner will be held Friday, October 8 at 6 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jackson.

“We are delighted to honor Victor and Dee McTeer who exemplify the best traditions in our state,” said Martha Bergmark, founder and president of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “Their lifetime of work protecting civil rights and their generous philanthropy in support of public education in the Delta is expanding opportunities for Mississippi children.”

“Likewise, Bill’s visionary leadership at BankPlus is a model for all financial institutions to follow,” Bergmark added. “BankPlus is pioneering a pathway to financial literacy and a wealth of new opportunities for low-income Mississippians.”

Mercidees and Victor McTeer have spent their adult lives in the Mississippi Delta, where Victor has used his law practice to protect voting rights, challenge discriminatory employment practices and battle big tobacco companies that targeted poor and African American people with their marketing tactics. Mercidees spent her career in public service as a public school teacher and served on the Board of the Greenville Municipal Separate School District for 12 years. She retired in 2000 to become president of the McTeer Foundation, co-founded with Victor to provide college scholarships and other benefits to public school students throughout the Mississippi Delta.

As President and CEO of BankPlus, Bill Ray committed millions of dollars to fund a loan product that provides a responsible alternative to payday lending. The product provides access to financial services for low-income people and includes financial literacy education and a savings component that fosters responsible financial management and wealth building. The alternative creates an opportunity for people to avoid the debt traps and high interest rates charged by predatory lending companies, such as check cashers and payday loans. BankPlus is a valued partner with Mississippians for Fair Lending, a coalition seeking financial reform of predatory lending in Mississippi.

The Champions of Justice Dinner is the Mississippi Center for Justice’s annual opportunity to honor those who have made significant contributions to the cause of justice for all. It is also a chance for the Center to share a firsthand look at its work to combat discrimination and poverty statewide. Champions of Justice honorees are selected by the Center’s Board of Directors. Candidates are considered for their experience and leadership in activities that have, and continue, to advance racial and social justice in Mississippi.

For more information about the event, including sponsorships, contact Lauren Welford, lwelford@mscenterforjustice.org or (601) 352-2269.