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It was just a small cadre of Southern Christian Leadership Conference board members that decided to sue other SCLC leaders for control of the organization and to use SCLC funds to pay for the legal fight. Those decisions were made without consulting other board members, according to testimony in the courtroom fight over control of the once-premier civil rights group.

In at least one instance, the then-treasurer, Spiver Gordon, secured a $30,000 loan for legal expenses and then told his compatriots the SCLC was expected to reimburse him.

And they agreed even though it was after the fact.

As opposing factions of the SCLC took their fight to a Fulton County courtroom Wednesday, testimony portrayed the group’s leaders as acting without consulting others and making unilateral decisions, and then trying to find justification in the SCLC by-laws and constitution when challenged.

A lawsuit before Fulton Judge Alford Dempsey was brought by a segment of the SCLC leadership that claims to be the bona fide board of directors against a faction that also claims it is the legitimate board.

“Some people have said the SCLC should die,” said attorney Thelma Wyatt Moore, who represents the SCLC faction that backs Gordon, of Eutaw, Ala., and Raleigh Trammell, of Dayton, Ohio, who claims to be chairman. “We are here because the SCLC needs to be resuscitated.”

The suit asking Dempsey to prohibit the other side from speaking and acting on behalf of the SCLC board was brought by Sylvia Tucker, who was chosen chair by one side; Randall Gaines, who is treasurer of that group; and the Rev. Bernard LaFayette.

The defendants are Wilbert Shanklin, the SCLC parliamentarian; the Rev. Curtis Harris, who was interim president; the Rev. Randy Johnson; and the Rev. Markel Hutchins, who announced several weeks ago that he, too, was president of the SCLC. The other faction says that it removed Shanklin, Harris and Johnson from the board and that Hutchins was never on it despite his repeated assertions.

Hutchins, an Atlanta civil rights activist, was the only person named in the suit who was not in court Wednesday.

“It would take a miracle from Jesus” to resolve this dispute outside the court, Dempsey said at the beginning of the daylong hearing.

“Once we decide who is the duly constituted authority of this organization, the rest is going to be easy,” Dempsey said as the hearing began.

The issue is who is — and who is not — in charge of the SCLC, the organization that became the face of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s.

Read the full story here.


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