- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — Martin Luther King’s legacy is under attack, and its greatest defender is unable to speak on the eve of what would have been his 77th birthday.

King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, is recovering from a stroke that partially paralyzed her, and only on Saturday made her first public appearance since last year’s King holiday observance, smiling from a wheelchair at the Salute to Greatness Dinner in Atlanta.

The couple’s four children are divided over whether to sell the family-run center that promotes King’s teachings.

The spotlight also is again hitting King’s more human side in a new book that reports his extramarital affairs and a nasty split with a colleague, the Rev. Jesse Jackson — a story that threatened to overshadow King’s contributions on the 20th anniversary of the King National Holiday.

Despite all the distractions, those who stood by King’s side in the civil rights movement say his memory is untouchable.

“Dr. King’s legacy is as sound as a rock,” said Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, who worked with King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Rumors of womanizing by King and feuds with Mr. Jackson and others have long been popular topics in the press and in books such as “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,” the memoir written decades ago by King’s former right-hand man, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy.

Historian Taylor Branch’s book “At Canaan’s Edge,” released last week, is the latest. In the book, the third in Branch’s series detailing King’s life and the civil rights movement, the author writes of a long-standing affair King reportedly revealed to Coretta Scott King in 1967, a year before his 1968 assassination.

Mr. Branch also writes of heated arguments King had with some of his closest colleagues, including Mr. Jackson, whom he accused of trying to use the civil rights movement to promote himself.

Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, a veteran civil rights activist interviewed by Mr. Branch for the book, said King’s stature will always make him a target.

“We get in the habit of trying to tear down noble figures from time to time. I think it’s just human nature,” said Mr. Lewis, who met King at age 18 and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington just before King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

“He was not a saint, he was just another human being,” Mr. Lewis said.

The King Center — site of his tomb — was founded by Mrs. King soon after her husband’s death. Last month, the center’s board of directors broached the possibility of selling it to the National Park Service.

Andrew Young, a King associate and former U.N. ambassador, along with two of the Kings’ children, Dexter and Yolanda, and King’s sister, Christine King Farris — all lifetime board members — are in favor of it.

But Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice object to any sale and are threatening legal action against Dexter King, who is chairman of the board.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide