LITTLE ROCK – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas announced today that its longtime legal director Holly Dickson has been selected to lead the organization as its permanent executive director. Dickson, who has served as interim executive director since the retirement of Rita Sklar in 2019, is an experienced and respected civil rights attorney with a long record of accomplishment defending and advancing the civil rights and civil liberties of Arkansans.
“Our founders, board members, staff, volunteers, donors, clients, and supporters – past and present – have devoted time, heart, and soul as a labor of love to make a more just state and nation for all people,” said Dickson. “To caretake that investment is a responsibility I will honor by continuing to work with our team, our supporters, and our allies to push for the change we want and need to see.”
As Legal Director for the ACLU of Arkansas for 14 years, Dickson directed the legal program for the organization, advocating for rights and overseeing cases involving free speech and expression, freedom of religion, discrimination, police abuse, racial profiling, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, education, reproductive liberty and other constitutional and civil liberties.
The victories achieved under her leadership include: successfully challenging a ballot measure that would have prevented LGBTQ people from adopting children, blocking numerous abortion bans and restrictions, striking down laws that criminalize poverty such as panhandling bans, and ending the shackling of pregnant women in state prisons.
“From protecting free speech and access to the ballot to challenging the treatment of incarcerated people amid COVID-19, Holly has fiercely and compassionately worked to advance the civil rights of everyone in our state – especially the most vulnerable,” said ACLU of Arkansas Board President Christine Althoff. “For 50 years, the ACLU of Arkansas has defended and advanced the civil liberties and civil rights of all Arkansans – and under Holly’s leadership, we’re poised to make an even greater impact in the future."
Dickson is a native of Batesville, Arkansas who studied political science, sociology, and criminal justice at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock before earning her Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law. Prior to joining the ACLU of Arkansas in 2006, Dickson worked in private practice litigating civil rights and employment cases on behalf of clients whose rights were violated.
Dickson was the 2020 recipient of the Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck Woman of the Year award from the Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers Bowen Student Chapter. In 2013, she was a recipient of the “Bayard Rustin Angelic Troublemaker Award” from the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Philander Smith College and Central for Artistic Revolution (CAR) in recognition of her work for fair and equal treatment in the state of Arkansas.