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Civil rights activist Cleveland Dennard

Cleveland L. Dennard, a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr. who was active in the civil rights movement, has died. He was 63.

Mr. Dennard died of pancreatic cancer Saturday at Southwest Hospital and Medical Center.

A native of Sebring and a graduate of Florida A&M, he had served as interim chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta since 1989. He was a consultant to Coretta Scott King, King's widow and the center's president.

He was a member of King's Montgomery, Ala., church when both lived there.

"Cleveland Dennard was a close friend of mine and of my husband; a dedicated member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery; and a strong supporter of the civil rights movement," Mrs. King said Tuesday.

The King Center was founded in 1968 to continue the philosophies of the slain civil rights leader in education and research.

Mr. Dennard also was the head of Dennard and Co., an Atlanta-based management consulting company, from 1984 until his death.

Before that he served as president of Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University, from 1977 to 1984. He was president of Washington Technical Institute from 1967 to 1976, when it and two others merged to form the University of the District of Columbia. He was a deputy commissioner of manpower for New York in 1965-67.

Mr. Dennard also held a master's degree from Colorado State and a doctorate from the University of Tennessee.

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