Dexter Scott King: Legacy of Activism and Resilience


Dexter Scott King: Legacy of Activism and Resilience
Credit: FOX News

The civil rights community is in mourning as they grapple with the profound loss of Dexter Scott King, the devoted son of the inspirational Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Dexter played an essential role in upholding his father’s legacy and tragically succumbed to prostate cancer at the age of 62. As we honor his life, we recognize the immeasurable contributions made by Dexter Scott King to the pursuit of justice and equality.

A Legacy Born from Tragedy

Dexter, the third among the four King children, was named after the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where his father served as pastor during the pivotal Montgomery bus boycott. Yet, calamity struck when he was just 7 years old; his father was assassinated in 1968 while advocating for striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. In “Growing Up King,” Dexter’s memoir, he poignantly recounted how his father’s murder shattered his carefree childhood.

Transforming Sorrow into Advocacy

The heartbreaking loss of his father spurred Dexter King toward activism. As he grew older, he pursued a career as an attorney, dedicated to protecting his father’s enduring legacy and preserving the intellectual property of the King family. His devotion led him to become chairman of the Atlanta-based King Center, dedicated to furthering civil rights and social change.

Custodian of a Historic Lineage

Dexter King held numerous responsibilities beyond managing the King Center; he also served as president of the King estate. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to his father, Dexter portrayed Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a 2002 TV movie—an enduring testament to their intertwined destinies. Despite their similar appearance, Dexter was determined to uphold his father’s ideals and passionate pursuit of civil rights.

Trials within a Noble Family

Dexter Scott King Trials within a Noble Family
Credit: LA Times

The responsibility of preserving their parents’ legacy occasionally led to disagreements among the King siblings. A significant conflict arose in 2014 when Dexter and his brother attempted to sell their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and the traveling Bible used during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Their sister, Bernice King, opposed the sale, leading to a mediated resolution in 2016, facilitated by former President Jimmy Carter.

The Pursuit of Truth and Justice

Dexter King believed that James Earl Ray, the man who pleaded guilty to assassinating his father, was innocent. He met with Ray at a Nashville prison in 1997, expressing his conviction that someone else was responsible and that further investigation was necessary. Sadly, Ray succumbed to liver failure the following year, leaving the truth about his father’s assassination unresolved for the King family.

The Unforgettable Legacy

Dexter Scott King The Unforgettable Legacy
Credit: Google

The loss of Dexter Scott King creates an undeniable gap in the ongoing fight for civil rights. His unwavering commitment to protect the heritage of his parents, coupled with his tenacity through personal and familial obstacles, undoubtedly highlights a remarkable life. As Rev. Al Sharpton aptly states, “He transformed his sorrows into activism and committed his life to furthering the dream Martin and Coretta Scott King envisioned for their children.”


What were Dexter Scott King’s major contributions to civil rights activism?

Dexter Scott King’s significant contributions to civil-rights activism come from his lifelong dedication to preserving his father’s legacy. Serving as both chairman of the King Center in Atlanta and president of the King estate, he played an instrumental role in carrying on Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Focused on safeguarding the family’s intellectual property through legal actions and even portraying his father in a 2002 TV movie displaying their striking resemblance, Dexter’s devotion ran deep.

How did Dexter Scott King handle family disputes regarding his father’s legacy?

Along with his siblings, Dexter Scott King occasionally confronted disagreements concerning the preservation of their parents’ heritage. A notable event occurred in 2014 when Dexter and his brother sought to sell their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and Bible—leading to conflict with their sister Bernice King. Resolved through mediation by former President Jimmy Carter in 2016, despite differing opinions, this episode underlines the family’s unwavering commitment to upholding their parents’ values.

What was Dexter Scott King’s stance on James Earl Ray’s involvement in his father’s assassination?

For Dexter Scott King, his public declaration of James Earl Ray’s innocence—the man who confessed to assassinating his father—showcased his dedication to pursuing justice. In a poignant 1997 meeting, Dexter expressed his belief that Ray was not the true killer and advocated for a trial to uncover potential evidence of a wider conspiracy. Regrettably, Ray’s passing from liver failure the following year halted any progress toward a trial. Nevertheless, Dexter’s stance displayed his relentless pursuit of truth in light of the tragic circumstances surrounding his father’s death.


As we say our goodbyes to Dexter Scott King, we contemplate a life characterized by perseverance, devotion, and a relentless quest for justice. His legacy will eternally be entwined with the continuous battle for civil rights, reverberating the aspirations and ideals of his father. With the King family asking for prayers in this difficult time, we are reminded that even in times of sorrow, unity and fortitude can triumph. Dexter Scott King’s memory will unquestionably stand as a shining beacon of hope for future generations.

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