ATLANTA — The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by the giants of the American civil rights movement, has spent years in decline and power struggles. Now the once-proud organization faces what might be a final blow with the refusal of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter to take the helm.
By Friday, following the recent indictment of a former national chairman on theft charges, King’s one-time lieutenants and his daughter had come to the conclusion that the group — which led the movement to end segregation in public facilities and open access to the ballot box for millions of black Americans — might have run its course.
“We should’ve closed it down years ago,” former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest advisers, said Friday after the Rev. Bernice King’s announcement. “I saw this as a lost cause a long time ago.”
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, the SCLC’s longest-serving president and 2010 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work during the civil rights movement, said he spoke with Bernice King on Friday.
“She and the board couldn’t find common ground, so I think she did the wise thing, rather than enter into a relationship with built-in turbulence,” Lowery said.