King-led group in control of SCLC

A faction of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by two men under criminal investigation is out and the group that opposed them is officially in control of the once-premier civil rights group, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling issued from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey effectively places control of the organization with the faction siding with the Rev. Bernice King, who was elected last October to lead the group.

The SCLC was co-founded by King’s father, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Joseph Lowery and others in 1957 and was a leading force in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Last fall, federal and local authorities launched an investigation of allegations that the SCLC chairman and treasurer mismanaged at least $569,000 of the group’s money.

The two denied the allegations and have continued to challenge their dismissal by some board members.

A public struggle for control was taken to court where both sides hoped to have the final word. The judge ruled it belonged to the group that tried to push out the leaders under investigation.

Dempsey said in his order that the board, led by former Chairman Raleigh Trammell of Dayton, Ohio, former Treasurer Spiver Gordon of Eutaw, Ala., and President Markel Hutchins of Atlanta, does not have a role any more.

The order also found that the defendants illegally interfered with the SCLC’s Atlanta headquarters, which Hutchins padlocked in May.

“Just like the first page of this order where ‘judgment’ is misspelled, everything in it is in error,” Hutchins said, adding that he would hold a news conference today to discuss it in detail. It was not immediately known if the losing faction will challenge the order.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.