Dennis C. Hayes


IU Bloomington Provost's Medal (2008)
IU Bloomington Provost's Medal
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Karen Hanson
School of Education Distinguished Alumni Award (2008)
Indiana University Bloomington


Dennis C. Hayes is a civil rights attorney and the Director of the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, MD. He has held various positions in the NAACP organization including lawyer and interim president.

Hayes was born in Indianapolis, IN and attended Crispus Attucks High School. After graduating, he pursued a degree in history at Indiana University in Bloomington, receiving it in 1973. He originally wanted to become a teacher, but he decided to go into law and enrolled at IU's law school. By the time he graduated in1977, Hayes was set on working in civil rights law due to his personal experience with segregation and desire to change it.

Hayes set up his own private practice in Indianapolis, and soon became involved with the Indianapolis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Hayes was appointed chairman of the branch's Legal Redress committee in 1981. Several years later, the NAACP recruited him in 1985 as an associate in its New York headquarters' legal department. As an assistant council, he primarily worked in litigation of civil rights cases at the U.S. district courts and Court of Appeals, along with supervising the organization's voting rights docket. As a result of his work, there was an increase of minorities in elected office. In 1990, they selected him to serve as the national office's chief legal officer. The NAACP Board of Directors thrice called on Hayes to fill in as interim CEO during searches for new leadership throughout his tenure in 1993, 2005, and 2007.

Hayes has devoted a lifelong commitment to public interest causes. In addition to his duties at the NAACP, he contributes his talents to board and committee responsibilities for the American Bar Association, American Judicature Society, the Public Justice Center of Baltimore and the Columbia Sportsmen's Association in Maryland. He is a contributing author of publications, ranging from magazine articles to civil rights training materials. His long and successful career has brought him wide recognition including the NAACP Lawyer of the Year (1989), Sagamore of the Wabash (1994), Kentucky Colonel Award (2001), and the Provost's Medal from Indiana University in 2008.