January 6, 2010 16:32 Age: 4 yrs

PERSPECTIVE: King 90L 90T Elected SCLC President

By: Liz Chilla

Group’s first female president hopes to inspire new generation of leaders

The Rev. Bernice King 90L 90T is the third member of the King family to serve as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference following her father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and her brother, Martin Luther King III.

The Rev. Bernice King 90L 90T, the youngest daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was elected the seventh president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on Oct. 30. She is the first woman to lead the organization and the third member of the King family, following her father and her brother, Martin Luther King iii.

“All of us in the Center for the Study of Law and Religion are delighted to see the pioneering work of Dr. King now entrusted to his daughter, Bernice,” said John Witte Jr., professor and cslr director.

Witte taught King, a joint-degree student in the law and theology program, during her time at Emory Law.

“With deep training both in law and theology, with long experience in the pulpit and prison ministry, she has the ideal set of gifts to carry on Dr. King’s crusade to enable everyone to achieve the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Witte said.

“I think it is absolutely amazing that she is the first female president of the organization, and furthermore that she is continuing the legacy of her parents,” said Chantelle Aris 10L, Emory Black Law Students Association president. “To a female like myself, she is truly an inspiration.”

A motivational speaker and minister at New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Ga., King has said one goal is to attract a younger generation to the organization.

“I look forward to re-engaging people in the work of nonviolent activism in their communities as modeled by my father,” King told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It is time to breathe new life into an old movement for the progress of a people.”

Today, the SCLC is more important than ever, Aris said.

“As the current blsa president, I know how important it is that our students see the potential of what they can become,” Aris said. “As African Americans in the legal profession, it can be a challenge knowing that you are a minority, but Ms. King truly exemplifies the idea that one can become anything they desire with hard work, faith and dedication.”

Founded in 1957 by the Rev. King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Joseph Lowery, the sclc has played a major role in the U.S. civil rights movement, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Right Act of 1965.

The organization—which includes about 10,000 members and nearly 60 chapters in 17 states—has since expanded its focus beyond civil rights to international human rights.

King was elected with a 23 to 15 vote by the board of directors. Her opponent was Arkansas Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen.

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