- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

A dispute between a black and a white man over who should lead the Virginia Southern Christian Leadership Conference is out of the courts but far from over.
The disagreement started in January when Jack Mills said board members appointed him president, which would have made him the first white leader of a chapter since Martin Luther King founded the national organization in 1957.
A rival group was then formed by the Rev. William Avon Keen when Mr. Mills refused to resign.
Both sides withdrew their lawsuits last week after a Petersburg, Va., judge denied their requests to block each other from using the organization's name, but Mr. Mills' group is not ready to quit.
"We have endless litigation planned here," said Neil Kuchinsky, an attorney for Mr. Mills, who declined to discuss specific options to further the case.
Mr. Keen, who was elected president at a statewide convention in May, said yesterday that Mr. Mills has wasted valuable money and energy that could have been spent on such social problems as racial profiling.
He also said Mr. Mills is trying to "divide and dismantle" a civil rights organization that needs unity more than ever after the racially divisive comments made recently by Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi.
"This is just not Jack Mills," Mr. Keen said. "He's caught up in a national effort to dismantle civil rights organizations."
Board members had planned to endorse Mr. Mills at the state convention, but changed their minds after he sent a letter criticizing an organization founder. Mr. Mills has said racism played a role in removing him from the group's traditionally black leadership.
Mr. Keen was elected after the letter, a move supported by Martin Luther King III, the organization's national leader, who also wanted Mr. Keen to dismantle Mr. Mills' group.
Mr. Mills then went to court to stop Mr. Keen's faction from using the organization's name, which prompted the countersuit. He also had the organization's corporate charter reinstated so his group would have the rights to the name in Virginia.
The Virginia Corporation Commission is expected to be the next to try to settle the dispute, but a spokesman said neither side had filed paperwork. He also gave no time frame for the commission to decide the case.
Mr. Kuchinsky said his client was legitimately elected and that Mr. Keen's group wants to remove him because they fear his reform efforts.
"The belief is that an organization that espouses living in a loving way ought to be capable of operating in a brotherly way itself," he said. "The issue is not whether it's a black or a white guy. It's about if it's an honest guy or lady."


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