Abernathy, Ralph D.

Abernathy, Ralph D.

(1926–90) Baptist clergyman, civil rights activist; born in Linden, Ala. An early civil rights organizer and leading confidante of Martin Luther King Jr., he was pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. throughout his civil rights career (1961–90). He was King's chosen successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (1968–77). Although he was a competent leader, the SCLC never regained the influence it had under King. He resigned the SCLC leadership to run unsuccessfully for Andrew Young's congressional seat (1977). Turning away from the civil rights movement, he devoted his attention to the West Hunter Street Baptist Church and the issues of worldwide peace.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.