Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pitts Scolds the Children of MLK

Martin Luther III (L), Dexter (C) & Bernice King (R) (Photo-BET)
In his book 'Forward From This Moment', a collection of columns that appeared in the Miami Herald between 1994 - 2009, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts demonstrates a fearlessness and an ability to challenge the perspective using humor and unflinching truth to convey a sense of moral authority in his writing. 

In case you missed it, he brought all of that to bear on the three surviving children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  in a blistering column posted on on Monday.

His scathing column came in response to the latest very public legal feud between the three King siblings over control of their late father's estate and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.   

MLK had four children, Yolanda (who died at age 51 in 2007) Dexter, Martin Luther, III and Bernice and the latest legal dust-up is related to both brothers having sued Bernice in court back in September, 2013 over the care and use of the intellectual property belonging to their father.

Pitts really skewers them in his column, and perhaps rightly so. Obviously we can't put ourselves in the shoes of the King children, but you'd think they would have somehow figured out how to resolve their differences without having to resort to using the courts.

The famous photo of a heart-broken Bernice being comforted in her mother's lap during Dr. King's funeral is iconic, but of the three survivng children Dexter is one of the most interesting.

A dedicated vegetarian and animal rights activist for 34 years, Dexter is the one who publicly met with the alleged assassin of his father, James Earl Ray, in 2007 and famously forgave him.

Dexter publicly revealed that the members of the King family believed without a doubt that Ray was not the killer of his father and that Lieutenant Earl Clark, a former officer in the Memphis Police Department was the actual contract killer hired to kill MLK.

The King family began their own investigation of the assassination in 1977, accumulating evidence that was presented in front of a jury in Memphis in 1999. After reviewing 4,000 pages of evidence and hearing from 70 witnesses, it took the jury 59 minutes to conclude that Loyd Jowers, owner of a small restaurant called Jim's Grill that was directly across from a grassy area near the Lorraine Motel where King was shot, had been a member of a conspiracy to assassinate King.

According to a troubling 2008 article by Maria Gilardin, attorney William F. Pepper, an associate of MLK who also defended James Earl Ray, the results of the 1999 trial pointing to Earl Clark as the killer were intentionally suppressed by the media.

In a 2003 book called 'An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King', Pepper gave a detailed account of the trial and recounts the enormous amount of evidence pointing to a conspiracy being responsible for the assassination of Dr. King in direct response to his calls for massive protests in the nation's capital for social equality.
According to a 1999 press conference, Coretta Scott King stated that she believed her husband was assassinated by an organized collective that included the Federal government, state and local officials and the mafia - how would any child who lost a father under the cloud of such looming truths process such knowledge?

Loosing one's father under any circumstances is tragic enough. But to have witnessed such a horrific public murder played out in the national media as a young child, then to discover that it was intentionally and highly planned by institutions we're taught to trust must take a terrible emotional toll on the psyche; so I'd hesitate to condemn the King children. 

But even though being the heirs to such a legacy can't be easy, as Leonard Pitts observed in his column, it none the less comes with some reasonable degree of expectation of behavior that reflects more positively on the legacy of one of the most iconic leaders in American history.  

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