Dexter Scott King
January 30, 1961 – January 22, 2024
Seventeen years after Yolanda Denise King (d. May 15, 2007), first child of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wife Mrs. Coretta King passed to her heavenly reward, the grim reaper dealt this inner-family yet another crushing blow via the death of their second son and third child Dexter Scott King.
“He transitioned peacefully in his sleep at home with me in Malibu [California],” said Dexter’s wife of 13 years Leah Weber King in a statement released through the Atlanta-based King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
The Kings were six months and ten days from celebrating their twelfth wedding anniversary. Dexter died after a long bout with prostate cancer. “He gave it everything and battled this terrible disease until the end,” she said. “As with all the challenges in his life, he faced this hurdle with bravery and might.”
Dexter’s older brother Martin Luther King III said in a statement, “I am deeply saddened to share that my brother, Dexter Scott King, has passed away. The sudden shock is devastating. It is hard to have the right words at a moment like this. Please keep the entire King family in your prayers, and in particular Dexter’s wife, Leah Weber.”
Dexter, born January 30, 1962 at Atlanta’s Hughes Spaulding Hospital, bared a striking resemblance to his father. Interestingly, he and Dr. King was born in the same month. Dexter is the namesake of Montgomery, Alabama’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where father Dr. King, Jr. began his first pastorate in 1954. His middle name Scott was Coretta’s maiden name. Notwithstanding the physical comparison to “Dad,” Dexter also took the time to compose his autobiography. On January 1, 2003, “Growing Up King” – an Intimate Memoir (Amazon-Kindle) hit the streets, became an almost instant hit and number one on the bestseller list by Essence Magazine (2003).
In his 320-page memoir, Dexter took the good, bad and ugly of his time on earth, commencing his education at both a private, then a public school to his matriculation at northwest Atlanta’s Frederick Douglass High School in 1976. Though teased and often challenged about being the “son of a King,” he persevered to became a talented athlete, lettering in three sports: football, track and field and tennis. On the gridiron, he rose to become captain of the “Astro’s” defensive unit and helped lead them to a regional title and the state championship game in 1978. Graduating that same year, he enrolled at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, hung up his sneakers and spikes and concentrated on technology. With close friends, he also created two profitable businesses in photography and music. He once said the latter become so lucrative, he had to hire people “to make all the gigs” (this writer, in fact, witnessed evidence of him and his business partners with their acumen of “spinning the wax” at a 1980s kickoff party for a weekend sports jamboree put on annually in those years by the 100% Wrong club of Atlanta).
While splitting his time between Atlanta, Georgia and Malibu, California in the late 1980s, Dexter King flirted with the silver screen. He received some minor success in 2002 playing his father in “The Rosa Parks Story” from 2002. Before that, in 1999, he lent his voice portraying Dr. King, Jr. at 34 years old in an animated one-hour feature “Our Friend Martin” which also starred the voices of Angela Bassett, LeVar Burton, Whoppi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, and even Dexter’s older sister Yolanda King.
During the early years of the 21st century, challenges and confrontations beset the King family and specifically Dexter’s two other siblings of the MLK, Jr. household. But before situations could further escalate themselves, cooler heads prevailed within the extended civil rights and social rights family. Dexter, who had been appointed to guard and protect the intellectual property of his father, mother and family, told media in 2016 that it seems his sister Bernice and brother Martin III were closer to settling their legal issues. That issue was aided when Dexter, urged by wife Leah, split their times between the Atlanta and the west coast.
The Atlanta Inquirer joins the King family, friends and the rest of the world to pause and pay their final respects to Dexter.
Reverend Al Sharpton said he 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.”
Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), issued the following statement on the passing of Dexter King, the second son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “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. Dexter was only seven when his hero, his role model, and, most importantly, his father was taken from us. He turned that pain into activism, however, and dedicated his life to advancing the dream Martin and Coretta Scott King had for their children, their grandchildren, and all the generations to come after. My love and prayers are with my brother, Martin III, Arndrea, Yolanda, and Bernice. We mourn with them for the loss of their brother – our brother – who left us far too soon.”
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens stated, “I stand with Atlanta and so many worldwide in grieving the loss of Dexter Scott King. His profound and unwavering love for his family positioned him as a guardian of his father and mother’s legacies. Dexter held various titles – Morehouse Man, humanitarian, Civil Rights activist, and even actor. However, above all, he was a devoted family man. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Leah Weber King, Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King III, their entire extended family, and all who knew and loved him.”
At a news conference on January 22, sister Bernice, wiping tears as she spoke to reporters, said her brother was “sometimes misunderstood,” acknowledged differences among him and his other siblings, and added “those differences never destroyed the love we had for each other. Dexter was a strategist. For him, it wasn’t about profit; it was about the Prophet. The King Center will continue to advance this legacy.”
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)
Mrs. Coretta King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006)
Yolanda Denise King (November 17, 1955 – May 15, 2007)
Dexter Scott King (January 30, 1961 – January 22, 2024)
Last updated on January 24, 2024