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Dr. King's Daughter Finalist to Run Civil Rights Group

The civil rights group co-founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. narrowed the list of finalists for its next president Saturday to his youngest daughter and an Arkansas judge.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference's board of directors will consider the Rev. Bernice King and Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen for the organization's top spot. They will succeed the Rev. Byron Clay, who has served as interim president since February, when Charles Steele resigned after five years in the position.

The SCLC will hold elections to select the next president Oct. 29 at the group's Atlanta headquarters. The two finalists were chosen from a list of five candidates.

Martin Luther King Jr. was the SCLC's first president, serving from 1957 until his death in 1968. His son, Martin Luther King III, was president from 1997 to 2004.

If she is chosen, Bernice King would be the first woman to lead the SCLC. Its longest serving president was the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who served from 1977 to 1997.

Infighting and a lack of permanent leadership have become issues in recent years, but the SCLC has been focused on rebuilding and redefining its agenda in a heightened climate of racial awareness sparked by the election of Barack Obama.

Bernice King, 46, is an internationally known motivational speaker and author. She received her bachelor's from Spelman College and her master's of divinity and law degree from Emory University.

King is a minister at New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Ga.

She was five when her father was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.

King did not immediately return a call seeking comment Saturday.

Griffen, 57, was the first black attorney to work for a major Arkansas law firm when he joined Wright, Lindsay & Jennings in 1979. He is an Arkansas native who earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas in 1973 and served in the U.S. Army before attending law school.

He headed the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission for two years under then-Gov. Bill Clinton starting in 1985. He joined the Court of Appeals in 1996.

Griffen is an ordained minister and former pastor who serves as coordinator of ministries at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Little Rock. He could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.