The Southern Christian Leadership Conference has voted Bernice King, daughter of late civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into office as their newly elected president with a vote by the board of directors of 23-15.
King succeeds former SCLC president Charles Steele who resigned after serving five years in the position and the Rev. Byron Clay who served as interim president.
From The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
King was elected over Arkansas Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen. King was not present when the vote was announced. Rev. Byron Clay, interim president, phoned King with news of her victory.
"In the spirit of your late father, with great anticipation, we look forward to your leadership," Clay told King in the phone call.
Clay said the board will meet with King soon before making any other announcements. "She is excited, I am excited and the nation will be excited," Clay said.
King will be the seventh permanent leader in the organization’s history. Founded in 1957 by Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Joseph Lowery, among others, the SCLC was at one time one of the country’s most powerful direct action civil rights groups.
She becomes the first female leader, but the third King to serve as president, following her father and older brother, Martin Luther King III.
As far as the nation being excited about King taking over an organization whose political relevancy has been called into question in recent years much like it's sister organization The NAACP seems a little overstated.
I imagine members within the SCLC who were seeking a fresh start with a progressive leader who would provide new leadership and not more of the same are disappointed today.
Bernice King has proven to be a polarizing figure on gay rights issues and will surely be at odds with members of her organization such as Rev. Eric Lee, president of the Los Angeles SCLC chapter who has come out publicly in support of marriage equality. Rev. Lee was threatened to be fired from his position due to his support of marriage equality in July.
Bernice King also serves as a minister at the notoriously homophobic New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia under the leadership of Bishop Eddie Long. The pair organized a march against same-sex marriage in downtown Atlanta that attracted thousands in 2004. The state of Georgia added a constitutional amendment effectively banning same-sex marriage shortly thereafter.