Bernice King, center, gets emotional as she speaks during a news conference on the passing of her brother, Dexter Scott King, son of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the Yolanda D. King Theatre for the Performing Arts, Jan. 23, in Atlanta. Also pictured is Angela Farris Watkins, left, Alveda King, second from right, and King Estate General Counsel, Eric Tidwell, right. Photo: Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

ATLANTA—The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter remembered her late brother on January 23 as a fierce and visionary steward of their father’s legacy.

The Rev. Bernice King choked back tears at times as she shared memories of her childhood and recent visits with Dexter Scott King, who died January 22 at his home in Malibu, California, after a yearslong battle with prostate cancer. He was 62.

“As you can imagine, this is perhaps the hardest thing for me to do,” she said. “I love you Dexter.”

Bernice King said she spent meaningful time this year with her older brother—the third of four children raised by Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.


“He often told me and I told him, ‘I love you,’” she said at The King Center in Atlanta, where she serves as CEO. “And he looked in my eyes and said, ‘I’m proud of you and the work that you’ve been doing. And you take it forward. I know you’re going to do a good job. Keep this legacy going. You got this.’”

Coretta Scott King launched the center in 1968 to memorialize her husband and to advance his philosophy of nonviolent social change. Dexter King was chair of the center’s board, which hasn’t yet announced a successor.

Bernice King said that from an early age, her brother showed interest in business. He would remind the family that Martin Luther King fought for copyright protection for his “I Have a Dream” speech, telling his siblings that they had to protect their father’s intellectual property, according to Bernice King.

“He had a vision to build something that would bring my father to life through technology,” Bernice King said, surrounded by other family members. She added, “Dexter was a strategist.”

The center offers virtual classes on Martin Luther King’s philosophy of nonviolence. The January 23 news conference started with a music video featuring Whitney Houston and other artists that was produced to celebrate the first Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday in 1986. Bernice King said her brother was instrumental in producing the song and video.

She also alluded to some of the pressure Dexter King experienced as the son of perhaps the country’s most prominent civil rights leader, whom he also closely resembled. Bernice King recalled that her brother went through a “rough patch” when he took a job with Atlanta police early in his life and had to carry a gun—something that was frowned upon in a family steeped in the philosophy of nonviolence.

He also faced criticism that he was trying to profit from their father’s legacy, which was not his intent, she added.

Dexter King and his siblings, who shared control of the family estate, didn’t always agree on how to uphold their parents’ legacy. In addition to Bernice King, he is survived by his older brother Martin Luther King III. He was out of the country and unable to attend the January 23 event, Bernice King said.

The eldest of the four King siblings, Yolanda, died in 2007.

Bernice King downplayed her differences with Dexter King, saying she always agreed with her brother in principle. And she said the two of them remained close throughout his life.

“None of that destroyed our love and our respect for each other,” she said, of their differences.

The family honored Dexter King’s wishes and cremated him. They plan to hold additional events to memorialize him. (AP)