Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sevell Brown takes credit for SCLC investigation; so does his successor

Over the past quarter-century, Sevell Brown has gone up against the city of St. Petersburg, a couple of police chiefs, time-share condominium promoters and a supermarket chain in his mission for civil rights.

More recently, though, Brown has focused his wrath on the very organization in whose name he has fought all these years, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He has accused the group, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of fiscal impropriety and since speaking out, is no longer head of the SCLC Florida chapter or its St. Petersburg branch.

A few days ago, however, came news of an FBI raid of the Ohio office and home of SCLC's national chairman Raleigh Trammel. Investigators also carted off computers and files. Feeling vindicated, Brown fired off a news release, taking credit for the investigation. The raid, he announced, was the result of his complaint to the Justice Department about the disappearance of more than $1.5 million in SCLC funds.

"It saddened my heart to make those complaints. But the outrageous and illegal actions of the SCLC board and National Chairman Raleigh Trammel left me no other choice,'' he said.

But Art Rocker, the man who replaced Brown as head of the Florida chapter, also claims credit for the investigation. Rocker, a member of SCLC's finance committee, said it discovered top officials had "mishandled" more than $500,000.

"Once they decided not to give accountability of the funding, we went to the authorities,'' he said.

Jonathan Alpert, general counsel for the National Christian League Council — a new civil rights organization founded by Brown — said Rocker is simply trying to distance himself from the wrongdoing and had been hand-picked by Trammel to take over the Florida office.

"Even in the event that he would have appointed me, it doesn't mean that I would share in the mishandling of funds,'' Rocker said.

Rocker, who lives in Pensacola, added that besides the more than $500,000 that "was definitely misappropriated" from SCLC's national coffers, "millions of dollars" more are missing from Trammel's Ohio chapter. Brown's SCLC programs in St. Petersburg — including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade — also lacked accountability and transparency, he said.

With the exception of Rocker, few SCLC officials are talking about the unfolding scandal.

Brown, who helped start the St. Petersburg SCLC branch more than 25 years ago, did not return calls, choosing to comment through news releases and his new organization's lawyer.

"I expect more raids by the FBI. I expect indictments. I expect convictions,'' he said.

He also predicted SCLC's demise "as a viable civil rights organization.'' But with the status of longtime civil rights organizations like SCLC already waning, the timing of the scandal could work in the group's favor, said Andra Gillespie, assistant professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta.

Few people are paying attention to the allegations of wrongdoing, she said, which could give SCLC leaders the time they need to put their house in order. Still, organizations like the SCLC, and even Brown's new group, could be forced to redefine their role in an America that has elected an African-American president.

"I think traditional civil rights organizations still have a place in African-American politics,'' but in a post-civil rights world, Gillespie said, that will mean a partnership between political and community leaders.

"People are worried about the economy,'' she said. "Civil rights and racial justice are not at the top of people's minds.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.

Sevell Brown takes credit for SCLC investigation; so does his successor 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fire on neighbor's porch leads to charges against Holiday man


    HOLIDAY — A Holiday man was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he torched the front porch of his neighbor, who he insisted was holding his daughter hostage.

    Dan Fry, 63, of Holiday was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree arson. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  2. Port Richey man solicited sex from 13-year-old, Pasco authorities say


    PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey man was arrested Wednesday after Pasco County authorities say he solicited sex from a 13-year-old boy on the gay male dating app Grindr.

    Shawn Daly, 43, of Port Richey was charged with solicitation for sexual conduct with a child over a computer. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 16: An evening of wine and song transcends all language barriers for these travelers


    Day 16: Castrojeriz to Villarmentero de Campos: 35 km, 10.5 hours. Total for Days 1-16 = 360 km (224 miles)

  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares by 20 percent


    CLEARWATER — Just then you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. Dunedin's negotiations with Blue Jays continue

    Local Government

    DUNEDIN — Dunedin officials are still in the process of negotiating a license agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    A rendering by Populous, a global architecture firm specializing in sports facility development, shows the entrance of an upgraded Florida Auto Exchange Stadium shows a Toronto Blue Jays team store. If the $81 million renovation plans between the city and team go through, the store would be open year-round.Credit:  Populous