Dexter Scott King, the youngest son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died Monday after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 62.
His death was announced by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, the social justice advocacy group’s headquarters that is also home to his father’s final resting place.
The young King was just 7 when his father was gunned down in 1968 on a Memphis hotel balcony. He was the iconic couple’s third child and was preceded in death by his oldest sister, Yolanda.
He is survived by his older brother, Martin Luther King III, and by his younger sister, Bernice King, who runs the King Center.
“He transitioned peacefully in his sleep at home with me in Malibu,” his wife of 11 years, Leah Weber King, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He gave it everything and battled this terrible disease until the end. As with all the challenges in his life, he faced this hurdle with bravery and might.”
King died a week after the nation celebrated the national holiday held in his father’s honor.
“Words cannot express the heartbreak I feel from losing another sibling,” his sister said in a statement. “I’m praying for strength to get through this very difficult time.”
His brother said ‘‘the sudden shock is devastating. It is hard to have the right words at a moment like this. We ask for your prayers at this time for the entire King family.”
Dexter King’s name was rich with the legacy of the civil rights movement. In addition to carrying both his parents’ names — Scott and King — the youngest son was named for the Montgomery, Alabama church where his father first rose to prominence.
It was the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, right across the street from Alabama’s state capital, that was the older King’s base of operation when he, along with Rosa Parks, was the face of the historic Montgomery bus boycott.
As an adult, the younger King, who bore a close resemblance to his father, followed in his parents’ footsteps and at one time ran the King Center that his sister now directs. He even portrayed his father in the 2002 television movie “The Rosa Parks Story.”
“I was heartbroken to hear that Dexter King left us this morning, but I was comforted by the knowledge he is reunited with his parents and sister,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has partnered with the King family on civil rights initiatives.