Clennon Washington King Jr.

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Clennon Washington King Jr. (July 18, 1920 – February 12, 2000) was the first African-American man to run for the office of President of the United States, and whose attempts at civil rights actions and running for office as a perennial candidate caused him to be nicknamed "The Black Don Quixote."[1]


He was the eldest son of seven. His father, Clennon Washington King Sr., was a civil rights activist, Tuskeegee Institute student and chauffeur of Booker T. Washington. His mother was Margaret Allegra Slater. His brother, lawyer C. B. King, posthumously had a United States Courthouse in Albany, Georgia named after him,[2] his brother Slater King was a successful real estate broker, and his youngest brother Dr. Preston King received a pardon from President Bill Clinton,[3] both actions related to their civil rights activism.

Attempts at integration[edit]

In 1957, he served as a history professor at Alcorn State University, but controversial letters to the editor and articles by him on the subject of racial integration led to students first boycotting the classes then threatening to boycott the school. School President J. R. Otis was fired as a consequence.[4]

In 1958, King tried to have one of his children integrate an all-white elementary school in Mississippi, which would have been a first, but his wife and children fled.[5] That year he also applied to the all-white University of Mississippi and was committed to an asylum for trying to attend it;[5] his brother C.B. King was able to help free him.[5] Additionally, Clennon King sought the support of Martin Luther King Jr.; they met and MLK later wrote Governor James P. Coleman on behalf of Clennon King.[6] Just two years later, James Meredith became the first black student at that university.

1960 presidential campaign[edit]

In 1960, King ran for President as candidate of the Independent Afro-American Party with Reginald Carter as his running mate, winning 1,485 votes in Alabama, making him (by some accounts) the first African-American candidate for President.[7] He was followed in 1964 by Clifton DeBerry of the established Socialist Workers Party, which had been running presidential candidates since 1948.

It's noted that King came in eleventh place of twelve candidates, well behind John F. Kennedy's 34,220,984 votes. However, it was the Constitution Party ticket of Merritt Curtis and B. N. Miller that he beat, but that same party's different ticket of Charles L. Sullivan and Merritt Curtis solely in Texas came in seventh, and the Tax Cut Party ticket of Lars Daly and Merritt Curtis was tenth.[8]

He made two additional attempts for high offices. In 1970 he attempted to join the Republican primary for the 1970 gubernatorial election in Georgia, a race in which his brother C.B. ran and lost to Jimmy Carter in the Democratic primary. King wished to have the fee to be a candidate waived, which it was not, and so sought recourse in a lawsuit and then appeal (ultimately unsuccessful).[9][10] He stayed in the race as a write-in candidate.[11] He received relatively few votes for Governor and then began a new campaign, trying to run once more for President.[12] This time the candidate of his Vote for Jesus Party, he again turned to a lawsuit in an attempt to waive ballot eligibility requirements this time for Delaware, which was again unsuccessful.[13]

Attempt at integrating Jimmy Carter's church[edit]

While pastor of the Divine Mission Church in Albany,[14] the night before the 1976 presidential election, King tried to integrate the all-white Baptist church of candidate Jimmy Carter in Plains, Georgia. Rev. Bruce Edwards wished to admit him, but the deacons of the church wanted to uphold the 1965 regulation barring "all Negroes and civil rights agitators"; they closed the church to services and recommended Edwards be fired. Eventually, Edwards resigned.[15] Newspaper stories about the case also reported on King having been convicted for failure to provide child support,[16] something he'd been required to pay since 1960[17] but had not consistently done.[18]

Additional campaigns[edit]

King ran for County Commissioner, City Commissioner and the House of Representatives of the Georgia General Assembly simultaneously in 1979. He was prosecuted for an advertisement placed in the Albany Journal offering "to pay within 30 days after his election $100 in cash to each August 8 voter who punches for him 3 times."[19][20]

In 1996, King ran for mayor of Miami, Florida[21] where he had moved in 1979 as the candidate of the "Party of God."[22]


Following a career as "Reverend Rabbi" of the non-denominational Church of the Divine Mission he had founded in 1981 in Miami, Florida where he called himself "His Divine Blackness," he died in 2000 after being hospitalized for prostate cancer, leaving a dispute over ownership of the church.[23]


  1. ^ Evers-Williams, Myrlie and Manning Marable, The Autobiography Of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches
  2. ^ "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" October 24, 2002 Archived February 7, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Preston King" New Georgia Encyclopedia
  4. ^ "One Way to Kill a College" Time March 18, 1957.
  5. ^ a b c Sansing, David G. (1999). The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 276–278. ISBN 978-1-57806-091-7. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  6. ^ King Jr., Martin Luther "To James P. Coleman" The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr.: Volume IV: Symbol of the Movement, January 1957- December 1958
  7. ^ Semple, Kirk. "Meet the Candidate: The Rev. Clennon King is unique. Period." Miami New Times, February 24, 1993
  8. ^ "1960 Presidential General Election Results"
  9. ^ "Carl Sanders still target of candidates". Rome News-Tribune. August 10, 1970. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  10. ^ "King v. Fortson, 433 F. 2d 995 - Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit 1970". Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  11. ^ "State Democrats eye convention at Macon". Rome News-Tribune. October 6, 1970. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Cleric Seeking Presidency". Palm Beach Post. January 8, 1971. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  13. ^ "King v. Willis, 333 F. Supp. 670 - Dist. Court, D. Delaware 1971". Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  14. ^ Michael, "Clennon King, Nutty Racial Provocateur" New York Press
  15. ^ Jackson, Ed and Charly Pou "This Day in Georgia History"
  16. ^ "Carter's church bars black again". Eugene Register-Guard. November 8, 1976. p. 5A. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  17. ^ "In re King, 474 P. 2d 983 - Cal: Supreme Court 1970". Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  18. ^ "Child Support Ordered". Miami News. February 27, 1963. p. 1. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Rev. Clennon King loses appeal of jail sentence". Baltimore Afro-American. October 9, 1979. p. 20. Retrieved January 17, 2010. 
  20. ^ "King v. State, 244 Ga. 536 - Ga: Supreme Court 197". Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  21. ^ "Index to Politicians: King, C to D" The Political Graveyard March 10, 2005
  22. ^ Semple, Kirk, "The King Who Would Be Mayor: His platform is his life. His campaign manager is God. His goal is to be your mayor." Miami New Times July 25, 1996
  23. ^ Nielson, Kirk "Grand Theft, Church Ghetto redevelopment Miami style is anything but divine" Miami New Times October 30, 2003


  • Weary Feet, Rested Souls: A Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement by Townsend Davis