ATLANTA (AP) — The older son of Martin Luther King Jr. said he left the center that honors his father’s civil rights legacy because his siblings and other board members want to align the nonprofit King Center too closely with the family’s for-profit companies.
Martin Luther King III told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview published Saturday that the King Center’s board stripped him of power as its CEO because he insisted on a clear separation of the nonprofit and for-profit sides of their father’s estate. He said he was left with the title of president, but announced Jan. 17 he was resigning from that position.
His sister, Bernice King, and their brother, Dexter King, remain on the board.
“We still have a deep love for one another,” Martin King told the newspaper. “We just have philosophical differences.”
The King estate is essentially divided in two parts. The nonprofit King Center was launched by the civil rights leader’s widow in 1968 to continue his work in equality, nonviolence and peace. King Inc. was formed later to control use of Martin Luther King Jr.’s image and words, an enterprise worth millions of dollars.
Martin King III said the two have different missions and should remain distinct. In his resignation letter he complained of a “convergence” between the two. He said his siblings and others on the seven-member board were placing King Inc. staff in control of the King Center, including the position of the center’s interim managing director.
“I disagree with the new direction of the board, which makes the center essentially an extension of King Inc. rather than acknowledge the fundamentally different and at times conflicting motives of a for-profit corporation vs. a public foundation,” Martin King wrote in his Jan. 17 resignation letter.
A person close to the King Center dispute, Houston attorney Terry M. Giles, said Martin King was stripped of his authority because he failed to show strong leadership.
Giles, who was appointed by a judge to serve as the custodian of King Inc., said Martin King had fallen behind on fundraising for the center and missed a goal to expand the center’s board to 15 people by the start of this year.
“It needs to have leaders in the community,” Giles said of the King Center. “It needs to be one of the larger and stronger boards in the country.”
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