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King Center Sold to the Federal Government?
By: David Stokes
Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Inquirer
Originally posted 1/12/2006

ATLANTA (NNPA) -- As the nation prepares to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. next week, new leadership and a more prominent role by a federal agency has taken place toward ''the living institution and memorial to promote (King's) ideals of nonviolence.''

In late September, King's nephew, Isaac N. Farris, assumed leadership of The King Center as president and chief executive officer following a board of directors election. Farris succeeded Martin Luther King 3rd, the eldest son of the civil rights leader and Coretta Scott King.

Additionally, according to sources familiar with the scenario, King Center directors moved to choose the federal government to take over the property and general maintenance and upkeep of the 449 Auburn Avenue location, to take effect early next year, after revelations were discovered last year of ongoing financial struggles endured to sustain the 30-year-old edifice with regular city and state code regulations.

''We've been talking about it for a long time,'' indicated former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, a King Center director who labored with Dr. King during the 1960s civil rights movement. ''

While the National Park Service will take care of maintenance costs and the property, the board and the family will continue to control the center's programs and missions.'' He said the deal is comparable to the government maintaining Atlanta's Carter Center and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

Young, now 73 and chairman of Goodworks International, was an executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during King's reign as founding president. SCLC was founded by King, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and other clergy in 1957.

Local National Park Service (NPS) or Department of Interior officials were not immediately available for comment. The agreement, nevertheless, will have The King Center's property deeded to the U.S. government, yet, allow the King family to maintain control of center initiatives.

In a December press statement announcing the new center official, Farris said that at a board meeting last month, ''the Center has authorized the exploration of options surrounding the transfer of property of The King Center, including Dr. King's birth home. The transfer would relieve The King Center of the economic burdens ...and enable the Center to focus on enhanced program(s) development.''

Other King Center board members include Christine King Farris, mother of Farris and eldest sibling of King, Jr.; Edythe S. Bagley, sister of Mrs. King, and Dexter Scott King, chairman of the board of directors.

Pertaining to Farris as King 3rd's successor, ''the Center's board election of Isaac Newton Farris as president and chief executive officer will strengthen our capacity to act more effectively. Isaac brings an insightful understanding of my father's teachings, combined with knowledge of The King Center's history and a vision n for its unique potential. We expect significant progress in the Center's development under his leadership,'' the board chairman said in the press statement.

Also in the press release, chairman King stated, ''(King 3rd) remains an active member of the Center's board, and has elected to reduce his workload to devote more time and energy to assist in the rehabilitation of our founder, Coretta Scott King.''

Mrs. King, after a stroke that left her temporarily incapacitated last August, continues to progress with daily physical therapy. Two months ago, the 78-year-old mother of four attended a local birthday celebration for eldest daughter, Yolanda, now 50.
Farris was unreachable at late press time to expound on ''exploration of options.'' However, he said earlier: ''I'm grateful for the confidence our chairman and board have placed in me. I look forward to working with the Center's staff in making the 2006 observance of my uncle's birthday a great success, and a wonderful celebration of the 20th anniversary of the federal holiday in his honor.''

King's national birthday celebration was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Scheduled King Holiday celebration activities include a Youth Teach-In, Gospel Concert, a Human Rights Forum and the annual March and Rally in downtown Atlanta, on Monday, Jan. 17th -- all sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. March Committee. Further information can be received by calling (404) 584-0303.

Dr. King, a native of Atlanta was born on Jan. 15th, and would have been 76 years old.

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