Civil Rights Activist Resigns as Interim President of SCLC

Reflecting the internal turmoil between past leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) such as John Lewis and Stokely Carmichael, the president of the historical civil rights organization recently announced his resignation due to “…deceit, mistrust and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth” within the organization, according to AP reports.

On Wednesday November 10, 2004, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, the interim president of the historical 47-year-old civil rights organization resigned. Shuttlesworth, 82, one of the founding members of the SCLC, is ending his tenure due to persistent problems plaguing the organization.

When Shuttlesworth took over the position after Martin Luther King III’s parting at the end of 2003, Cox News Services quoted him as saying “I hope that we could focus the attention of the country to how SCLC got started and get to touch and focus the country on issues that helped people.” Now Shuttlesworth is singing a different tune.

According to an Associated Press article, Shuttlesworth in his letter of resignation questions whether the group can recover from its financial woes and internal squabbling.

The list of grievances include rioting at this summer’s convention in Atlanta, in which police had to be called to keep the peace; the fact that SCLC membership now has fewer than 3,000 paid memberships, while in earlier years the numbers of the members who supported the organization was in the tens of thousands; and only 10 of the 58 national chapters having paid dues to the national organization.

In addition, according to internal records obtained by the Atlanta Constitution Journal, the SCLC owes $43,000 in state and federal taxes, although the Internal Revenue Service has agreed to forgive more than $69,000 in fines and penalties.

Current leadership within the organization insists that the organization can keep alive the message of peace and unity fostered by its co-founder, the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. despite the difficulties the organization faces. Current Executive Vice President Charles Steele is expected to be named the SCLC’s interim president. Steele says the spirit of King and other civil rights leaders is still alive, and there is an obligation to make the organization relevant.

A leadership conference was held during the same week of Shuttlesworth’s resignation in order for the conference’s executive officers to regroup.

In the recent past, the conference has engaged in several programs including the Voter Education & Registration and Direct Action program, the Youth Pre-Employment program and the Truth & Justice campaign (which focused attention on educating and empowering voters, increasing voter registration, and ensuring equality at the polls).