The Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and Rabbi Jonah Pesner lead the 1,000 Ministers March for Justice in Washington Monday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Dexter and Martin King III miss unveiling of father’s statue

Bernice King was careful to note all of the relatives seated with her on the dais Monday as a statue of her father was unveiled at the Georgia Capitol. 

Her aunt, Christine, the oldest surviving blood relative of her father, was there, along with her son and daughter. Naomi King, the wife of King’s younger brother, Alfred Daniel, was there with her granddaughter.

The Rev. Bernice King, left, and Isaac Farris, center, the daughter and nephew of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., attend the unveiling ceremony with Georgia Sen. Emanuel Jones, standing, and Christine King Farris. (AP photo/David Goldman)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

King’s only grandchild, Yolanda, named after the late first-born Yolanda King, was there. Bernice King even mentioned that her mother, Coretta Scott King, was there in spirit.

When Gov. Nathan Deal presented her with a commemorative replica of the new statue, Bernice King noted that she was the fourth child of Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr.

But noticeably missing from the dais, as thousands of people watched the unveiling, were King’s sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King.

In part of her speech, Bernice King said of her brothers, “(King III) is in Washington D.C. with the 1,000 Ministers March, and Dexter….,” seeming to not finish her thought.

“So I greet you on behalf of the entire King family,” Bernice King said.

State Rep. Vernon Jones was among the thousands in the crowd and said the King brothers’ absence didn’t trouble him.

“No, I don’t take it as a concern. I’m sure if they could have been here, they would have been here. This was a day of coming together, so I don’t take it as a concern,” Jones said. “Bernice spoke eloquently about her brothers, and I hope that doesn’t overshadow what is a great day for Georgia and a great day for the nation.”

After Bernice King’s speech, her family gathered around the covered eight-foot statue created by Martin Dawe and helped lift the veil. The King statue, which stands on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and faces east, is the first of an non-elected African-American to grace the Capitol grounds

“From a family perspective, the unveiling was very moving and touching,” said King’s nephew, Isaac Newton Farris Jr. “In light of everything happening across the country, it was very meaningful that a relative is so honored. And when you factor in his legacy, it was an amazing day. I noticed my mother (Christine King Farris) kind of shed a tear because it was so moving to her.”

At the same time as the unveiling, the Rev. Al Sharpton was in Washington, using the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech as the foundational backdrop of his “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice” in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

Sharpton’s rally was to get 1,000 ministers for a march on Washington on Monday to protest against racism and to show that opposition to President Trump and his administration is moral as well as political.

That is where King III, a longtime ally of Sharpton, was — while his daughter Yolanda and his wife, Arndrea, attended the ceremony in downtown Atlanta.

Dexter King and his wife, Leah, moved back to Atlanta in January 2016. But the couple still spends summers in Malibu. Leah King said Monday her husband would have no comment on why he didn't attend the unveiling of the statue.

Farris said his cousin's absence in no way diminished his contribution to the project.

Georgia leaders, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Sandra Deal, members of the King family and Rep. Calvin Smyre were on hand for unveiling of the first statue of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday at the Capitol. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Throughout the ceremony, several speakers mentioned Eric Tidwell, the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management for the King Estate, which manages his Martin Luther King Jr.’s intellectual property.

Farris said anytime Tidwell was mentioned, the speaker was essentially talking about Dexter, who still remains as the president and CEO of the King Estate.

“So Dexter was very much involved in the planning of this. He wasn’t here, but I am sure he watched it carefully on television,” Farris said.

Farris said none of the high-profile family squabbles that have played out in the media were a factor in the absence of either brother, adding that the family is in a good place now. Especially at a time when their father was being honored.

“Dexter is just low-key like that,” Farris said. “He is just not a public person.”

Contributing: Staff writer Greg Bluestein

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