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Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, will speak at 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, as part of the Billie Grace Goodrich Distinguished Lecture Series in UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

Marian Wright Edelman

The lecture will take place in the Grand Pavilion Ballroom of the Holiday Inn Knoxville Downtown, 525 Henley Street. Guests are invited to a reception at 5:15 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Complimentary parking is available in the Holiday Inn parking garage, and street parking is available downtown.

Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund in 1973. The organization has been headquartered on the Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, since 1994.

Edelman has been an advocate for Americans facing economic and other challenges for her entire professional life. A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, she was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi bar. She also directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi.

In 1968, she moved to Washington, DC, to become counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign, an initiative started by Martin Luther King Jr. She then served as director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University.

Edelman serves on the board of directors for the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

She has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2015, UT awarded Edelman an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree when she delivered a commencement address for the College of Communication and Information.


Jules Morris (865-974-6638,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,