Image: Hillary Clinton listens to Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Robert Sullivan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Charles Steele speaks in 2007 during a service at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Ala. as then Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton listens.
updated 2/1/2009 12:34:37 PM ET 2009-02-01T17:34:37

The president of the civil rights group that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. helped found has resigned.

Charles Steele Jr. said Sunday he would continue working as a consultant for the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The 62-year-old says the "time is right to bring on new leadership."

The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native became SCLC president in 2004, inheriting a group that was near bankruptcy. He led it to solid financial footing, opened conflict resolution centers overseas and helped build a new headquarters.

Steele says SCLC vice president Byron Clay of Kenner, La., will be interim president until a successor is found.

The SCLC was co-founded in 1957 by King and other civil rights leaders to advance racial equality.

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