Xernona Clayton Reflects on King's Legacy

Civil rights icon Xernona Clayton was both the organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr.

She sat down with On Second Thought for a conversation about how King would feel about today's civil rights movements.

Today, Clayton is CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation. We talked with Clayton in her office about the memories she shared with Dr. King at the 1966 SCLC in Atlanta.

Interview Highlights

Tony Harris: I wonder how much closer you think we are to Dr. King's conception of the beloved community.

Xernona Clayton: ...We still haven't gotten there yet. We have not gotten what he called the beloved community. We haven't gotten to the point yet where we love everybody. We haven't gotten to the point yet where we'll treat everybody right. We haven't gotten to the point yet where we'll feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Every time the issues come up we've got some opposition. So his work has not been finished. 

Harris: We talk about the assassination, but let me ask you. Why was he assassinated?

Clayton: There was, you know, a strong feeling that he was disturbing the country, and of course he was, I guess, when you think about it. He was an annoyance to a lot of people, you know. "What's he doing now?" They would ask. "What now?" ... There were a lot of people who felt that his presence was a destructive presence. 

Harris: How would you describe his bearing, his presence for young people now?

Clayton: What I remember and admired most about him is he practiced what he preached. He preached nonviolence and he practiced it. He preached loving everybody and he did.