John Payton

John Payton


Name: John Payton

Title: Civil Rights Attorney / President and Director-Counsel

Organization: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

What Makes This Person a Game Changer:  John A. Payton was a well-known and influential African-American civil rights attorney who served as the sixth President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He served in this position until his death in March 2012. In this role, Payton led the LDF’s involvement in  five cases before the Supreme Court, including two cases which garnered victories in the areas of voting rights (Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder) and employment discrimination (Lewis v. the City of Chicago).   Prior to his role at the LDF, Payton was a partner at the Washington firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr. He was also the lead counsel for the University of Michigan, where he successfully defended the use of race in the admissions process at its undergraduate college and at its law school. While at the University of Michigan, Payton handled the two high-profile cases in the trial court and in the court of appeals, and argued Gratz v. Bollinger before the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2010, The National Law Journal named him as one of last decade’s most influential lawyers in the area of civil rights. To learn more about John A. Payton, read “John Payton’s Tireless Work and Advocacy Remembered”