ATLANTA—Civil rights leaders dedicated to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. are trying to refocus attention on his message of nonviolent protest against poverty, war and racism and away from a family feud over The King Center and the health of King's ailing widow.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, president emeritus of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference — which King helped found in 1957 — said Coretta Scott King will be present at the activities marking King's 77th birthday, whether or not she shows up physically.
"She is fixed in our thoughts and in our love," Lowery said. "They'll see her in their mind's eye. Her presence will be felt."
Coretta Scott King suffered a stroke in August that affected her speech and paralyzed the right side of her body. She was released from the hospital more than a month later, and doctors predicted a long, slow recovery.
Should she miss the King celebration — including the Jan. 16 service at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her husband preached from 1960 to 1968 — it would be her first absence in 20 years since her husband's birthday has been recognized as a national holiday, said the Rev. James Orange, an SCLC organizer and King aide who organizes the annual march and rally in Atlanta.
The march will include stops at The King Center, which is also the slain civil rights leader's final resting place. Recently, the family has split over the possible sale of the facility to the National Park Service.
Lowery preferred to view the debate as a "healthy discussion," and said the disagreement is an opportunity for the family to practice King's nonviolent conflict resolution methods.
"Whatever happens, I'm sure the legacy, philosophy and theology will remain in the custody of the (King) family and board," he said. "There's nothing negative about the discussion. We ought to discuss it."
— The Associated Press