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John Whitehead is a man who defies all stereotypes: attorney, film director, painter, poet and author. Considered a legal, political and cultural watchdog—sounding the call for integrity, accountability and an adherence to the democratic principles on which this country was founded, John W. Whitehead has taken on everything from human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, to child pornography, cross burning and the war on terrorism.
Whitehead’s concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit legal and educational organization whose international headquarters are located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people, The Rutherford Institute has emerged as a prominent leader in the national dialogue on civil liberties and human rights and a formidable champion of the Constitution.
Widely recognized as one of the nation’s most vocal and involved civil liberties attorneys, Whitehead’s approach to civil liberties issues has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. Whitehead is an active member of the Constitution Project, which seeks to formulate bipartisan solutions to contemporary constitutional and legal issues by combining high-level scholarship and public education. Whitehead also serves on the Board of Directors for the American Freedom Agenda, which works to restore the Constitution’s checks and balances and protections against government abuses.
Whitehead has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law, human rights and popular culture. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries, carried by daily and weekly newspapers and web publications across the country, including The Huffington Post, take the pulse of the nation, of what’s happening and what’s news. Audio versions of his commentaries are also made available to radio stations across the country. And his weekly video blogs, distributed through YouTube, are gaining in viewership and popularity.
In 1997, Whitehead launched First Liberties, a national public service radio campaign dedicated to informing people about their First Amendment and constitutional liberties. His provocative Gadfly magazine was hailed by Utne Reader as “second only to the Library of Congress as a warehouse of American pop culture—and number one when it comes to fun reading.”
Whitehead is the author of some 20 books, including The Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks, 2008) and Grasping for the Wind (HarperCollins/Zondervan, 2001), the companion documentary series to the book of the same name, which also received critical acclaim. The series was awarded two Silver World Medals at the New York Film and Video Festival. Whitehead served as a juror at the 2004 RiverRun International Film Festival.
Whitehead’s articles examining trends and issues have been printed in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times and USA Today, among many others. Whitehead has been a frequent commentator on a variety of legal and cultural issues in the national media. He has been interviewed by the national and international media, including: Crossfire, CNN Headline News, -Larry King Live, Nightline, Dateline, 60 Minutes, ABC 20/20 News, The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC, NBC and CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, This Week with Sam and Cokie, Rivera Live, Burden of Proof, Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, FOX News Sunday, Hardball, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and National Public Radio.
In its Fall 2003 issue, MovieMaker magazine showcased Whitehead as their Home Cinema guest columnist. Whitehead’s column, “Fool’s Paradise: How to Watch a Movie,” provides readers with basic elements to be aware of when viewing a film. Distributed to more than 150,000 moviemakers around the world, MovieMaker magazine has dedicated itself to the “art and business of making movies.”
Time and again, Whitehead hits the bull’s eye with opinions and commentaries that are insightful, relevant and provocative. All too often, he finds himself under fire for his frank and unadulterated viewpoint, but as he frequently remarks, “Anytime people find themselves under fire from both the liberal left and the conservative right, it means that that person is probably right on target.”
Born in 1946 in Tennessee, John W. Whitehead earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas in 1969 and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1974. He served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971. He lives in Virginia.