The Baltimore Sun


Civil rights leader

The Rev. James L. Bevel, a fiery top lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a force behind civil rights campaigns of the 1960s whose erratic behavior and conviction on incest charges tarnished his legacy, died in Virginia on Dec. 19 of pancreatic cancer. He was 72.

Sherrilynn Bevel, a daughter, said he died at her home in Springfield, Va. She said Mr. Bevel, who was freed on bond because of his poor health, had been there since Nov. 8.

"Jim Bevel was Martin Luther King's most influential aide," said civil rights historian David Garrow. He cited Mr. Bevel's "decisive influence" on the Birmingham "Children's Crusade" of 1963 that helped revive the movement, the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 and King's increased outspokenness against the Vietnam War.

Mr. Bevel, who was standing in the hotel parking lot below the balcony where King was shot, helped lead many of King's unfinished projects, including a demonstration to support striking Memphis sanitation workers.

But Mr. Bevel was forced out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for his disturbing personal behavior.

In April, a Loudoun County, Va., judge convicted him of having sex in the early 1990s with his then-teenage daughter, and he was sentenced in October to 15 years in prison.

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