ATLANTA (AP) — The Rev. Bernice King said Friday she will not assume the presidency of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights group co-founded by her father, slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., more than 50 years ago.
King was elected in October 2009 to lead the organization and was to be the first woman to hold the post. But soon after, the SCLC’s chairman and treasurer were accused of financial mismanagement, and bitter infighting among the group’s leaders landed the split factions in a courtroom.
King said in a statement issued Friday that she is shifting her attention to furthering the legacy of her mother, Coretta Scott King, after dedicating “an exhaustive amount of time, energy and resources to assess the organization and prepare for my transition.”
“After numerous attempts to connect with the official board leaders on how to move forward under my leadership, unfortunately, our visions did not align,” the statement said. “Therefore, after praying mightily and seeking wise counsel, I have decided not to assume the presidency of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As a steward of the King legacy, I must shift my focus to further advancing its growth and perpetuation overall.”
King said she notified board leadership of her decision on Thursday.
Her brother, Martin Luther King III, led the group from 1998 to 2003. At a press conference after her election, Bernice King said she was eager to reinvigorate the group with younger members and would make youth and women a priority.
But within weeks of her election, the SCLC was looking into allegations that its chairman and treasurer had mismanaged the organization’s funds, throwing its board of directors into chaos as members chose sides. By the spring, the dispute over who controlled the SCLC was headed to court. The group had split into two factions, both claiming to be in charge and making decisions on behalf of the entire organization.
Bernice King remained largely silent amid the infighting and chaos. She led a prayer for unity within the group in August, calling for an end to the bickering and hard feelings. In September, a judge ruled that the directors siding with King were the group’s legitimate leaders.
The former chairman, the Rev. Raleigh Trammell — the subject of the federal and internal probe — was indicted last week on charges including grand theft involving a meal program for low-income seniors in Ohio.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press