Martin Luther King, III

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Martin Luther King, III

Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta King
Husband of Private and Private
Widower of Andrea King
Father of Yolanda Renee King; Private and Private
Brother of Yolanda Denise King; Private; Dexter Scott King; Private and Bernice King

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Martin Luther King, III

Martin Luther King III (born October 23, 1957) is an American human rights advocate and community activist. He is the eldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. His siblings are Dexter Scott King, Rev. Dr. Bernice Albertine King, and the late Yolanda Denise King. King attended The Galloway School and went on to Morehouse College, which was the same school his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather attended.

Early life and career

Martin Luther King III was born in October 23, 1957 to human rights advocate Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. His mother had reservations about naming him after his famous father, "realizing the burdens it can create for the child," but King, Jr. always wanted to name his son Martin Luther III. He was raised in Vine City, an urban neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, and was ten years old when his father was assassinated. King lived with his mother in his childhood home until his adulthood. As an adult, King was a shy man who rarely socialized, and friends have claimed he tends to overwork, in part due to the pressure to live up to his father's name; one friend, Rev. E. Randel T. Osburn, said of King, “Watching him is like watching somebody trying to outrun themselves. It’s like there’s a ghost in front of him and he’s always trying to catch it.”

King served as an elected county commission member in Fulton County, Georgia, the county encompassing most of Atlanta, from 1987 to 1993. He was defeated for re-election after revealing that he owed the federal government more than $200,000 in back taxes and fines. Also in 1993, King helped found the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., the company that manages the license of Martin Luther King Jr.'s image and intellectual property. King remains a commissioner in the company as of 2008.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In 1997, King was unanimously elected to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organization founded by his father. King was the fourth president of the group, which sought to fight police brutality and start new local chapters during the first years of his tenure. Under King's leadership, the SCLC held hearings on police brutality, organized a rally for the 37th anniversary of the 'I Have a Dream' speech and launched a successful campaign to change the Georgia state flag, which previously featured a large Confederate cross.

Within only a few months of taking the position, however, King was criticized by the SCLC board for alleged inactivity. He was accused of failing to answer correspondence from the board and take up issues important to the organization. The board also felt he failed to demonstrate against national issues the SCLC previously would have protested, like the disenfranchisement of black voters in the Florida election recount or time limits on welfare recipients implemented by then-President Bill Clinton. King was further criticized for failing to join the battle against AIDS, allegedly because he feels uncomfortable talking about condoms. He also hired Lamell J. McMorris, an executive director who, according to The New York Times, "rubbed board members the wrong way."

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference suspended King from the presidency in June 2001, concerned that he was letting the organization drift into inaction. The group's national chairman at the time, Claud Young, sent a June 25 letter to King which read, "You have consistently been insubordinate and displayed inappropriate, obstinate behavior in the (negligent) carrying out of your duties as president of SCLC." King was reinstated only one week later after promising to take a more active role. Young said of the suspension, "I felt we had to use a two-by-four to get his attention. Well, it got his attention all right." After he was reinstated, King prepared a four-year plan outlining a stronger direction for the organization, agreeing to dismiss McMorris and announcing plans to present a strong challenge to the Bush administration in an August convention in Montgomery, Alabama. He also planned to concentrate on racial profiling, prisoners' rights and closing the digital divide between whites and blacks. However, King also suggested in a statement that the group needed a different approach than it had used in the past, stating, "We must not allow our lust for 'temporal gratification' to blind us from making difficult decisions to effect future generations."

Later career

King left the SCLC in January 2004 to serve as director and co-owner of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change with his brother, Dexter Scott King. Scholars like Taylor Branch have criticized the King siblings for neglecting a large cache of historical documents at the Center. In 2005 and 2006, Martin, Dexter and their sister, Bernice Albertine King, became involved in a highly-publicized battle over whether to sell the poorly maintained institution to the National Park Service, but ultimately opted against the sale. In 2006, King and his siblings sought to auction some of King's documents at Sotheby's for as much as $30 million, but a group of philanthropists and business leaders bought the documents for an undisclosed sum just prior to the auction; the buyers promised to keep the collection intact at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr.'s alma mater in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2006, King founded and currently heads an organization called Realizing the Dream. Dexter King has accused Martin of establishing the foundation to make money off their parents' legacy which should go to the King Center.[4] On March 29, 2008, King threw out the first pitch at the MLB Civil Rights Game.

Martin Luther King III spoke on behalf of the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, at the Democratic National Convention on August 28, 2008. The event marked the 45th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech and the first time an African American accepted the presidential nomination of a major party. King said his father would be "proud of Barack Obama, proud of the party that nominated him, and proud of the America that will elect him."[6] But he also warned that his father's dream would not be completely fulfilled even if Obama wins the presidency. King said the country was suffering from a poor health care system, education system, housing market and justice system and that "we all have to roll up our sleeves and do work to ensure that the dream that he shared can be fulfilled.”

Martin Luther King III gave a tribute at Michael Jackson's memorial service on July 7, 2009. Additionally Martin spoke at Michael Jacksons' Funeral at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, alongside his sister Bernice King. He also spoke as a campus guest speaker at SUNY Canton on February 23, 2010, invited by the College Union Board.

Along with Al Sharpton and a number of other civil-rights leaders, King was scheduled on August 28, 2010, to take part in Reclaim the Dream commemorative march marking the forty-seventh anniversary of the historic Great March on Washington. These leaders were to speak at the location of Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. followed by a reassemblage at the site of the future Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial at a location in the center of the National Mall. The event would coincide with Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally planned for the same day on the eastern part of the Mall.[7] King wrote a Washington Post editorial offering measured criticism of Beck's event. "While it is commendable that [Glenn Beck's] rally will honor the brave men and women of our armed forces ... [its] organizers present this event as also honoring the ideals and contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. ... My father...would be the first to say that those participating in Beck's rally have the right to express their views. But his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation or political beliefs. ... Throughout his life he advocated compassion for the poor.... ...Profoundly religious..., my father did not claim to have an exclusionary "plan" that laid out God's word for only one group or ideology. ... I pray that all Americans will embrace the challenge of social justice and the unifying spirit that my father shared with his compatriots."


Martin Luther King III's mother, Coretta Scott King died January 30, 2006. At her funeral on February 7, former President Bill Clinton described her children's responsibility to carry on their father's legacy as "a terrible burden" and asked the audience to pray for them. In May 2006, Martin Luther King III married longtime girlfriend Arndrea Waters. On May 25, 2008 the couple had a daughter, Yolanda Renee King, the first grandchild of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. She was named after her aunt, the late Yolanda King, who had died of a heart attack at age 51 in Santa Monica, California the previous year.

Lawsuits involving Dexter King

In July 2008, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King filed a lawsuit against Dexter King, accusing him of improperly taking money from the estate of their late mother and transferring it to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., where Dexter King serves as president. According to the suit, Dexter failed to keep Martin and Bernice informed about the company's financial affairs. It alleged the company's assets were being "misapplied or wasted," and demanded that Dexter produce documents pertaining to the 2006 sale of some of Martin Luther King Jr.'s documents. In response, Dexter King accused his siblings of continuously using their parents' legacy for their own benefit and "to further their own personal and religious agendas." Although critics said the lawsuit was at odds with their father's message and legacy, King III maintained it was in keeping with his history of negotiation and nonviolent direct action, claiming, "My father also used the court system."

Dexter filed a similar counter-suit against Martin and Bernice on August 18, 2008, claiming they breached their duties to the King Center and their father's estate, misused assets belonging to the center and kept money that should have gone back to the center and estate. Among the claims in the suit were that Martin improperly kept a $55,000 Lincoln Navigator SUV donated to the King Center for his own personal use, and that he "commandeered a reception"[4] being held at the King Center and "turned it into his own wedding reception."

Dexter claimed he made numerous attempts to get his siblings to stop such misuses of power but was unsuccessful. King III's lawyer, Jock Smith, denied the allegations as petty and misguided, and said the suit demonstrates Dexter King's misuse of power and his history of making poor decisions involving the Center without seeking proper input from his siblings.

In October 2008 Martin Luther King III had not seen his brother since June, and Dexter had yet to meet his niece, Yolanda. Martin, Bernice and Dexter have each expressed love for each other and hope that they will reconcile once their legal matters have been resolved.[12] In October 2009 Martin and his siblings settled the lawsuit out of court.


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Martin Luther King, III's Timeline

October 23, 1957
Montgomery, Alabama, United States