King's nephew named to head civil rights group

August 16, 2011

(RNS) Two and a half weeks after the sudden death of its president, the outhern Christian Leadership Conference has named a nephew of the Rev. artin Luther King Jr. as its new leader.

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., 48, was elected on Monday (Aug. 15) to lead he Atlanta-based organization that has mobilized churches to fight iscrimination.

Farris, a lifelong member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, here his uncle preached, had served as interim president. He succeeds he Rev. Howard Creecy Jr., who was tapped earlier this year but died nexpectedly on July 28.

King helped found the SCLC in 1957 and served as its first resident.

In an interview Tuesday, Farris said the organization's primary ocus will be on access to higher education.

"The mission will not change but we have to operate in the current environment," he said. "It's getting harder for everyone to get an ducation, so that's the civil rights issue for 2011."

The SCLC had plans to be led by another King family member. In anuary, the Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the founder, decided not to ssume the presidency, citing a leadership clash.

Farris said he is ready to succeed veteran civil rights leaders, any of whom led the SCLC as ordained ministers.

"I never had that calling that way but I've always felt a call of ublic service," he said.