ATLANTA (AP) -- The recently dismissed president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said Monday he was removed by the civil rights group's board without warning or a chance to rebut the reasons for his ouster.
Isaac Farris called for the board to unify and fulfill the mission of the civil rights organization co-founded in 1957 by his uncle, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The news conference represented his first public comments since he was fired in April from the organization.
A group of current and former chapter presidents and members is calling for Farris to be reinstated. They say the SCLC board dismissed Farris without any input from the chapters.
With a dozen supporters seated behind him, Farris held back tears as he spoke of his life mission to serve God and the less fortunate. Farris said he wasn't given a chance to respond to the board's reasons for firing him.
``Let me be clear, I never received a letter of termination, yet it was told to the media that I resigned,'' he said.
He also confirmed that the locks on the building were changed.
``I found myself pushed out and literally locked out,'' he said.
Farris said had planned to leave quietly, but supporters implored him to speak publicly. He said his public comments weren't just about trying to get his job back.
``This is about the future of SCLC and its potential to serve mankind and whether it can live up to that potential.''
Farris said he would return if the board and the greater SCLC body agreed to it.
In the meantime, Farris said he wants the organization to work toward meaningful goals like equality in education and helping the poor.
He called for the board to return to the founding principles of SCLC, which are rooted in service to the community.
The coalition stated that their next step is to ask a judge to intervene. They are also demanding the resignation of two of the board's leaders.
Civil rights veteran C.T. Vivian is serving as the group's interim president.