Dexter Scott King, the youngest child of civil rights leaders the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died of cancer Monday.
In a press release, The King Center said the 62-year-old died peacefully in his sleep after a battle with prostate cancer.
“He gave it everything and battled this terrible disease until the end,” said Leah Weber, Dexter Scott King’s wife for the last 11 years, according to Fox 5 Atlanta. “As with all the challenges in his life, he faced this hurdle with bravery and might.”
Named after the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama where his father had once served as pastor, King was only 7 years old when his father was assassinated.
On Monday, The King Center said he “was the family member delegated to take on the mantle of continuing the precedent his father set by legally protecting his work.”
“He devoted his life to the continued perpetuation of his father’s legacy and the protection of the intellectual property (IP) his father left behind,” The King Center said.
At the time of his death, King served as the chair of The King Center and president of the King estate.
“Words cannot express the heartbreak,” the Rev. Bernice King, the youngest of the King children, said in a statement, according to NBC. “I’m praying for strength to get through this very difficult time.”
Martin Luther King III said the “sudden shock” of his brother’s death is “devastating.”
“I am deeply saddened to share that my brother, Dexter Scott King, has passed away. The sudden shock is devastating. It is hard to have the right words at a moment like this. Please keep the entire King family in your prayers, and in particular Dexter’s wife, Leah Weber,” Martin Luther King III said in a statement.
Black leaders across the nation have expressed their sympathies for the family.
Both Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Tennessee State Rep. Justin Pearson (D) said that they were “saddened” to hear of the news.
Pearson posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Martin Luther King III and Bernice King will “continue to hold the flame of hope, justice, and love.”
Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) posted she is “grateful for his work to continue his father’s legacy.”
Ivan J. Bates, Baltimore’s state’s attorney, said in a statement that much of King’s intellectual property talents were “outshined by his devotion to his family and preserving his father’s legacy.”
King’s death, Bates said, is heartbreaking for both the family and the nation.