Courts - Georgia Faction that lost control over SCLC files appeal

By Dorie Turner

Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- A faction that lost a lawsuit over who should lead the civil rights group co-founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. filed an appeal Monday, accusing rival board members of "hijacking" the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Several leaders from the SCLC -- including ousted Treasurer Spiver Gordon -- gathered at a church in southwest Atlanta to announce the appeal of a Sept. 1 ruling by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey. The ruling effectively placed control of the group with a faction siding with King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, who was elected last October as its leader.

Gordon maintained his innocence when he spoke for the first time publicly since his ouster over accusations he and Chairman Raleigh Trammell mismanaged at least $569,000 of the group's money.

"I've never stolen anything from this organization -- not one penny," Gordon said, flanked by a handful of current and former SCLC board members. "I've been vilified. It's terrible what has happened."

The attorney for current SCLC Chairwoman Sylvia Tucker and others called the appeal "frivolous" and "without merit."

"We will prevail in the end," said Charles Mathis.

Last fall, federal and local authorities launched an investigation of the allegations. Both Trammell and Gordon have continued to challenge their dismissal by some board members, and neither has been criminally charged.

The allegations split the organization, with separate factions claiming to be the SCLC's board of directors. The two boards met hundreds of miles apart earlier this year and held separate annual conventions in Atlanta in August.

The SCLC has spent nearly a year in court, wrangling over control of the organization.

Dempsey's order favored the plaintiffs in the case, recognizing their meetings and actions as legal and valid, including the appointment or removal of any officers during that time period by that group.

The SCLC was co-founded by King's father, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Joseph Lowery and others in 1957 and was a leading force in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Published: Wed, Oct 20, 2010

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