King’s daughter seeks SCLC leadership post

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ATLANTA (AP) — The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter is among five candidates vying to lead the organization the civil rights icon helped found more than five decades ago.

If she is chosen, Bernice King, who is also a minister, would be the first woman to lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The group met this week for its annual convention in Memphis, Tenn., where King was killed in 1968.

He was the SCLC’s first president, serving from 1957 until his death. His son, Martin Luther King III, was president from 1997 to 2004.

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Interim President Byron Clay confirmed three of the five candidates seeking to become the group’s seventh president were: King, SCLC Georgia State President Samuel Mosteller and activist Markel Hutchins, founder of the National Youth Connection. Mosteller and Hutchins are also ministers. Officials declined to say who the remaining candidates are.

Clay is not among those seeking the position permanently. He said the SCLC expects to begin interviewing the candidates within the next 45 days. None of the candidates were invited to address the board of directors at the convention.

“We are insistent upon making sure whole process is done with full integrity and on high plane of fairness and that it is done in a timely and orderly fashion,” Clay said on Tuesday.

Clay has served as interim president since February, when Charles Steele resigned after five years in the position. Steele is credited with ending much of the infighting in the organization, righting the SCLC’s finances and opening a $3 million headquarters in downtown Atlanta debt-free.

Infighting and a lack of permanent leadership have become issues in recent months as the SCLC has focused on regrouping, rebuilding and redefining its agenda in a heightened climate of racial awareness ushered in by the election of Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.

The SCLC’s 51st convention concludes Wednesday.