Chevene Bowers King
Born in Albany, Georgia, King was one of eight children of Clennon Washington King Sr., who graduated in 1916 from Tuskegee Institute, and Margaret (Slater) King, who attended Tuskegee Institute before transferring to Fisk College in Nashville. Among his six brothers were Clennon Washington King, Jr., Slater King and the much younger Preston King. After he graduated from a segregated high school in Albany, his college years were interrupted by military service in the US Navy from 1943 to 1946.
During his undergraduate years, King majored in industrial arts at Tuskegee Institute from 1941 to 1943, majored in history at West Virginia College from 1946 to 1947, after serving in WWII and transferred to Fisk University, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee where received a B.A. degree in history in 1949. The following fall, he arrived at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where he earned his law degree in 1952. During law school, he married Cleveland native Carol Roumaine Koiner Johnson in July 1951. After passing the Ohio bar in 1953, he returned to his native Albany, where he passed the Georgia bar in 1954. He was the only black lawyer practicing south of Atlanta in Georgia, the largest state land wise east of the Mississippi River.
As an attorney, civil rights leader, and pioneering political candidate, King spent the rest of his life championing the causes of justice, opportunity, and dignity for all Americans. Despite basing in Albany throughout his career, he emerged as a national figure.
In the early 1960s, he was a co-founder of the Albany Movement, the first major civil rights campaign for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after Montgomery. During the Movement, King (no relation) represented scores of demonstrators including MLK, Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker and Andrew Young. Despite the campaign being charactered as nonviolent in black and white, Atty. King faced violence first hand. In late July 1962, Dougherty County Sheriff D.C. "Cull" Campbell struck Atty. King multiple times splitting open his scalp with the 76-year-old lawman's walking cane. King was attempting to meet with a jailed white demonstrator from Ohio named William Hansen when the white sheriff told the black lawyer to leave. When King ignored the order, the sheriff said he put him out. The incident including a photo of a bloodied King made the front page of the Sunday, July 29, 1962 edition of the New York Times. The following August,'63 March on Washington organizer John Lewis, noted the incident again, taking to task the Kennedy Administration from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: "...what did the federal government do when Albany's deputy sheriff beat attorney C. B. King and left him half dead? What did the federal government do when local police officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife (C.B. King's sister-in-law) of Slater King, and she lost her baby?"
In 1964, King became the first Black since Reconstruction to run from Georgia for the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1970, he was the first Black ever to run for Governor of Georgia, after being drafted statewide by a delegation of Blacks who were weighing the possible gubernatorial candidacy of Julian Bond, Leroy Johnson and Atty. King. Despite running a distant third behind Jimmy Carter and Carl Sanders, King's candidacy significantly boosted voter registration numbers among Blacks statewide.
He devoted much of his time to pro bono law work for the poor and to volunteering in community projects for the needy. He was most noted as the lead attorney in a series of landmark lawsuits against longstanding discriminatory practices in the city and the state.
He won cases including Gaines v. Dougherty County Board of Education, Lockett v. Board of Education of Muscogee County, and Harrington v. Colquitt County Board of Education (involving multiple appeals over a period of time to gain full compliance with Brown v. Board of Education in those communities, which accelerated the pace of desegregation in other areas); Anderson v. City of Albany and Kelly v. Page (reaffirming the right of citizens to peaceably assemble); Bell v. Southwell (ending the use of segregated polling booths, voiding an election in which separate booths were used); Brown v. Culpepper, Foster v. Sparks, Thompson v. Sheppard, Pullum v. Greene, Broadway v. Culpepper, and Rabinowitz v. United States (prohibiting use of jury selection lists on which blacks were underrepresented and ending the exclusion of blacks on juries on the basis of race); and Johnson v. City of Albany (ending discriminatory practices in local government employment).
Death and legacy
In 1988, King died in Tijuana, Mexico where he was treated for prostate cancer following a three-year battle. In 2000, King became the namesake of the first federal courthouse in the former Jim Crow South named for a Black and the fourth African American to hold that distinction nationwide. In addition to The C. B. King United States Courthouse in Albany, Georgia, the other three federal courthouse bear the names of Martin Luther King Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes.
King is the son of Clennon Washington King, Sr., who was a successful businessman in Albany, Georgia, and served quietly as the patron of the Albany Movement. King is the brother of Clennon Washington King, Jr. who in 1960 was the second black to run for president of the United States of America and the first black to attempt to register at the University of Mississippi which resulted in the state's governor committing him to the state's mental asylum in Jackson, a legal matter in which Atty. King intervened. He is the brother of Slater Hunter King, who in 1963 was the first black to run for mayor of Albany, Georgia. He is the brother of Professor Preston T. King, who spent 39 years in a self-imposed exile stemming from a 1961 Jim Crow era draft conviction, and in 2000 received a presidential pardon from President William Jefferson Clinton. Atty. King is also the uncle of Baroness King of Bow, who was the second black female to be elected to British's House of Commons British Members of Parliament and holds a life peerage to the House of Lords. He is also the uncle of renowned choreographer and ballet master Alonzo King of Alonzo King Lines Ballet.
Portrayal In The Media
- "U.S. Representative John Lewis (Ga.-D) and Other Civil Rights Vets to help Dedicate 1st U.S. Courthouse named for a Black Man in former Jim Crow South". ExodusNews.com. October 24, 2002. Archived from the original on February 7, 2005.
- Kelly, Mary (December 5, 2015). "Race, Murder, and the Law in 1957 Georgia". The Week. Archived from the original on 5 December 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2015.