- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

ROANOKE A white member of Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference is trying to gain legal control of its Virginia chapter after board members ousted him from the group's leadership.
Jack Mills, 71, said he is the rightful leader of the traditionally black organization and a victim of reverse discrimination. He has asked a judge to prohibit the chapter's founder and other former officials from operating under the organization's name without his consent.
"Those people are interlopers," Mr. Mills said. "They're not dues-paying members."
Neil Kuchinski, a Colonial Heights attorney representing Mr. Mills and a few supporters, filed a request for a court injunction Wednesday in Petersburg Circuit Court.
The request, which came on the eve of the SCLC's annual conference in Danville, claims that SCLC-Virginia founder Milton A. Reid and several "renegade" board members illegally removed Mr. Mills and dissolved the SCLC's corporate charter.
"There was no proper notice of the vote in accordance with the bylaws, and a number of persons were permitted to vote who had not properly paid their dues to the legitimate SCLC," the request states.
The SCLC has never had a white president at any of its state chapters or the national organization.
The Rev. William Avon Keen, a Danville minister who is now leading the Virginia chapter, dismissed Mr. Mills' claims. Mr. Keen said Mr. Mills was never elected, but was merely recommended for the position by the board in January.
The organization's core members later retracted their recommendation because they now consider Mr. Mills to be a racist, Mr. Keen said.
"He has revealed to us those evils which we have been fighting all along," Mr. Keen said. "There are people who want to dismantle the SCLC. They disguise themselves in garments of love, but really, it's hate."
Mr. Mills, a lanky Iowa native who once worked as a stuntman, said he used to believe the FBI when it suspected King of communist sympathies. Several years ago, Mr. Mills said, he changed his mind.
To make up for lost time, Mr. Mills joined the SCLC and started to work as an advocate for minorities and the poor, whom he considers to have increasing needs now more than ever.
"Integration destroyed the black community," Mr. Mills said. "Where is the community that supported the single black mother? Where's the dad? He's in jail."
The dust-up between Mr. Mills and chapter officials began shortly after he received the board's recommendation, edging Mr. Keen by two votes. Mr. Mills called a news conference announcing his ascension to the presidency and sent former President Curtis Harris a letter telling him to "back off."
In the rambling message, Mr. Mills called himself a "prophet to be an inspiration for poor people."
"Jack Mills was destroying our image," Mr. Harris said. "We had to do something."
Board members quickly removed their support of Mr. Mills and later installed Mr. Keen as interim president. The board also voted April 19 to dissolve the chapter's corporate charter.
The State Corporation Commission reinstated the charter May 3 at Mr. Mills' behest. His injunction request contends that members wanted to discontinue their corporate status because it would require them to reveal how donations, dues and other public funds were spent.
Mr. Kuchinski, Mr. Mills' attorney, said he doesn't expect a judge to make any decision about the injunction for another several weeks.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mills said he will probably try to attend the three-day convention in Danville "not to disturb anything, just to observe."
Convention delegates are expected to vote for another president tomorrow.


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