Dexter Scott King remembered during memorial as keeper of his father Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream


Dexter Scott King, the late son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was remembered Saturday as the protector of his family’s legacy and the keeper of his father’s dream during a memorial service in Atlanta.

“You, my love, were born a King, beautifully sculpted with the physical traits and intellect of the most revered and impactful man of our time, your beloved father. In addition to that, you held the grace, talent and steadfastness of your beautiful mother,” Dexter’s wife, Leah Weber King, said in her speech, speaking directly to him.

“You were, indeed, what most would consider and what I considered a man who had it all,” she said. “But instead of devoting your life to how these riches could advance your personal aspirations and fill your ego, you devoted your life to how all of these riches could advance the cause and legacy of your father, your mother and your family.”

Dexter Scott King died Jan. 22, 2024, at his home in Malibu, California, after battling prostate cancer.

The memorial service for Dexter King was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father once was pastor. Among others paying homage were his two living siblings and musician Stevie Wonder, who sang “They Won’t Go When I Go.”

Dexter’s older brother, Martin Luther King III, said Dexter has been welcomed home by their mother, father and sister Yolanda Denice King, who died in 2007, a year after their mother.

“He’s run his race, now it’s up to us,” King III said, referring to him and the Kings’ last surviving daughter, the Rev. Bernice A. King.

“We will one day achieve what Mom and Dad talked about, the beloved community,” he said. “We aren’t even in the vicinity today, but we will get there.”

Dexter King was named for the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where his father was pastor during the bus boycott that vaulted him to national prominence following the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks.

King was 7 years old when his father was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

He bore such a striking resemblance to his father that he was cast to play him in a 2002 television movie about Rosa Parks, starring Angela Bassett.

He spent much of his life protecting the legacy of his parents.

Dexter King served as chairman of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and was president of the King Estate, working to protect the family’s intellectual property.

“Dexter was ahead of his time,” Bernice King said of her brother’s vision in protecting the family’s intellectual rights. “That’s Dexter Scott King’s legacy.”

In an old speech played at the memorial, around the time when he began a leadership role with the King Center, Dexter Scott King said, “When people ask, ‘What does Dexter want?’ Dexter wants to serve, Dexter has to serve because the triple evils of poverty, racism and violence are still among us.”

He met James Earl Ray, who had pleaded guilty to murdering his father in 1969, during a visit in 1997 at a Nashville prison. King believed Ray was innocent, and the family was hoping to have Ray stand trial, hoping it would reveal evidence of a broader conspiracy.

Ray told King in the prison meeting that he wasn’t the killer, and King replied, “I believe you and my family believes you.”

Ray never stood trial and died from liver failure in 1998.


Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

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