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King Center shake-up: Martin Luther King III quits as president

January 17, 2012 |  2:14 pm

Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the slain civil rights leader, announced on Tuesday that he will step down as president of the Atlanta-based center devoted to the legacy of his father.

The resignation comes a day after President Obama led the nation in commemorating the life and career of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by celebrating the federal holiday established to honor his memory as a day of service. The resignation also comes on the heels of the center's announcement Jan. 9 of a major overhaul, one that included keeping Martin Luther King III as president but replacing him as chief executive with his sister, Bernice.

Their brother Dexter continues as chairman of the center’s board.

Martin Luther King III could not be reached for comment and messages left with the center were not returned.

In his resignation statement, King said he was stepping down as president but would continue to be an active member of the board. He said that he would concentrate on a new organization devoted to his father’s goals.

“I will be devoting my primary future efforts towards launching a new organization that will focus on supporting a new generation of young 'drum majors for justice' worldwide to expand my commitment to the Kingian principles of nonviolence, social justice, and human rights,” King said in the statement published on the website of the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Since that posting, the resignation has been widely reported on other Atlanta-based media outlets.

“To that end, I will announce further details in the coming weeks,” King said.

King’s departure was not unexpected, though the timing -- a day after the holiday -- was a surprise. The elder King, who was assassinated in April 1968, would have turned 83 this year.

The King Center, which attracts a million visitors a year, was founded in 1968 to further King’s work on nonviolent social change. The center sits on a 23-acre site that includes the crypt of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.


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Photo: In this 1993 photo, Coretta Scott King, left, wife of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., talks with daughter the Rev. Bernice King, center, and son Martin Luther King III. Credit: Jon Chase/Associated Press