SCLC Names International Headquarters after President Charles Steele, Jr.

By George E. Curry
Editor-in-Chief
EmergeNewsOnline.com
Charles Steele Jr.

 

ATLANTA – The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Atlanta-based civil rights organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has named its international headquarters at 320 Auburn Avenue, N.E. in honor of Charles Steele, Jr., its current president and CEO.
Steele, a former Alabama state senator from Tuscaloosa, AL served from 2004-2009 as its sixth president since the founding of SCLC in 1957. When he assumed office, the organization could not pay its utility bills and was nearly $2 million in debt.
Fred Shuttlesworth, the leader of the Birmingham, Ala. civil rights struggle and a former SCLC president, had written off his organization as dead, saying: “Only God can give life to the dead.”
When he took over, a confident Charles Steele answered that criticism directly, saying, “Well, I talked with God as well and he said he was not coming, but he sent me.”
And the record appears to support his godly assertion.
Steele said within three years, he had raised approximately $20 million – half in cash and the other half through in-kind contributions.
Having accomplished his primary mission, Steele decided to return to his life as a businessman in 2009. But his “retirement” would be short-lived.
In 2014, Steele was asked by the board of directors to give up his full-time private consulting business to return as president to an organization again on the verge of financial collapse.”Dr. Steele has returned as president because of a very important need at this point which is fundraising and fund development. That’s a primary responsibility of the president, and he has excellent skills and contacts in that arena to help us maintain our financial stability,” Board Chairman Bernard LaFayette, Jr. said at the time.
After Steele’s 5-year stint, SCLC went through a series of leadership changes. The charismatic president and fundraiser was succeeded by Rev. Howard W. Creecy, Jr., who served from 2009-2011, when he died accidently while still in office. Issac Farris Jr., a nephew of Dr. King, was dismissed in 2012 after serving less than a year as president. He was followed by civil rights icon Rev. C.T. Vivian, who agreed to serve on an interim basis until SCLC could select a new president.
For stability, SCLC turned again to a reliable face.
Steele, the only person who has ever served twice as president of the storied civil rights group, has been widely recognized for raising most of the $3.5 million to erect the 2-story building on Auburn Avenue and providing the leadership to resurrect the troubled organization.
The building, which opened in 2007, carries the official name: “SCLC International H.Q. – Charles Steele, Jr. Bldg.” A marker is prominently displayed above the front entrance of the building.
“Here is a president who, for the first time, made it possible for SCLC to own its own headquarters,” said LaFayette, the SCLC board chairman. “This is not just a building, it’s an international headquarters named to emphasize our international thrust.”
Steele said he was deeply touched by the decision to name the building in his honor.
“I could go on forever without the personal recognition,” he said in an interview. “But to put my name on the building gives respect to all of the people who supported me, especially my family. It’s a blessing from God and the expression of gratitude says that my work has not been in vain.”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell introduces H.R. 4817 to designate Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights District a National Park

Shown above: Memorial to Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church which would be part of proposed Historic Civil Rights District

 

The City of Birmingham played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement and this national designation will forever cement its place in American history.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL-7) released the following statement to announce the filing of H.R. 4817, a bill to designate Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights District as a National Park.
“I am proud to introduce this important, bi-partisan legislation that incorporates Birmingham’s Historic Civil Rights sites into the National Park Service System,” states Representative Sewell. “With this designation, historic preservation efforts will be enhanced for these historic sites, greater economic revitalization will occur, and it will forever cement the pivotal role Birmingham played in the Civil Rights Movement.””The Historic Civil Rights District in Birmingham holds many stories of the journey from what was regarded as one of the most segregated cities in the South to what Birmingham is today. The National Park designation will be a real tourism boost for Birmingham and will mean greater economic development for Alabama. The Birmingham Civil Rights District will include a 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, A.G. Gaston Motel and other historic landmarks.”Several noteworthy stakeholders expressed their support for the Bill:
“Sharing the Birmingham Civil Rights Story and legacy is paramount to the success of the City. We are thankful to Congresswoman Sewell for moving this legislation forward. This is an exciting time for our City,” says Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama.
“As a gathering place for activists and leaders in the Civil Rights movement, the sites within the Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park tell of the African-American fight for equality. The National Trust applauds Congresswoman Terri Sewell for her leadership in introducing this significant legislation, and proudly stands with Mayor William A. Bell and the City of Birmingham in supporting this effort to preserve not only the places but the history that happened in the thriving historic district.
We urge the House of Representatives to quickly approve this legislation to ensure these places live on to benefit future generations of Americans and beyond,” states Tom Cassidy, Vice President of Government Relations & Policy, National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Birmingham was one of the most heavily segregated cities in the United States in the 1960s. The non-violent protest marches in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 and the violent response they evoked from police and state and local officials drew national attention and helped to break the back of segregation in that city,” states Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “We commend Representative Sewell for working to ensure these pivotal moments in the long struggle to bring equality and justice to all Americans will never be forgotten. The addition of a Birmingham Civil Rights National Historical Park would allow this important Civil Rights story to be told for generations to come.”

About the Proposed National Park Designation

The proposed Birmingham national park site would include 16th Street Baptist Church, A.G. Gaston Motel, Kelly Ingram Park, Bethel Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
The “National Historic Park” designation by the National Park Service (NPS) is defined as particularly notable because of its connection with events or people of historic interest. Such entities often extend beyond a single property or building. Many entities are not traditional “parks” in the sense of extensive green spaces, but are rather urban areas with a number of historically relevant buildings.