- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ATLANTA (AP) — The King Center, one of the most revered sites in the civil rights movement and the final resting place of Martin Luther King is struggling amid reports of financial woes and questions about possible mismanagement.

Now, some are asking the slain civil rights leader’s family to relinquish some control over the memorial site and seek more federal help to maintain the nonprofit center.

“It’s the only way realistically that the King Center can remain intact and receive the kind of maintenance and upkeep that it deserves,” said Democratic state Rep. Tyrone Brooks of Atlanta, who worked with King during the civil rights movement.

Reports that the King Center requires $11.6 million in repairs while its top two executives — King’s sons — earn six-figure salaries have raised questions about the center’s management.

Founded in 1968 by King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, in the basement of her home, the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change moved into its current site in 1981. The $8 million complex includes Freedom Hall, an administrative and archives building, and King’s tomb, which lies on top of a reflecting pool.

The center is located within blocks of King’s birth home, the church where he preached and a visitor’s center, which are run by the National Park Service. Together the properties make up the King National Historic Site.

The King Center and the Park Service have had a rocky relationship, highlighted in 1994 when King family members tried to halt construction of the visitor’s center because they wanted to build a for-profit museum there.

Nevertheless, the Park Service gives the center about $1 million in grants per year for maintenance.

But between 1996 and 2003, the King Center had an operating loss of more than $1 million, and it has taken out loans and lines of credit totaling $1.6 million since 2000, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.

A Park Service report issued last year revealed the center needs an estimated $11.6 million in repairs.

The King Center did not respond to interview requests by the Associated Press.

King’s sons have prominent positions with the King Center. Chief Executive Officer Martin Luther King III was paid a salary of $150,000 last year, managing director Rosalind McGinnis has said. Dexter King, who stepped down as CEO last year and is now chief operating officer, makes nearly $180,000, plus $8,700 in benefits and deferred compensation.

Dexter King also owns Intellectual Property Management, a for-profit company hired to operate the King Center. That company has been paid more than $2.9 million by the center since 2000, the Journal-Constitution reported last month. King Center officials have said the payments covered staff salaries and benefits, and that Dexter King’s business collected no additional fees.

Charles Jones, chairman of Georgia State University’s African American studies department, said the King family should not carry the burden of maintaining the center.

“It should be at least a state or national or city project to make sure that we can preserve his legacy,” he said.

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