Fulton’s Solicitor General Works To Clear MLK’s County Arrest Record

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., right, looks out the window of a police car as he and Spelman College student Agnes Blondean Orbert, arrested with him at Rich’s Department Store, are taken to jail, in Atlanta on Oct. 19, 1960.

Associated Press

A monumental moment in the civil rights era was remembered over the weekend as it marked the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s April 4, 1968 assassination.

Now, Fulton County’s Solicitor General is working to clear the King’s criminal record there.

Fulton Solicitor General Keith Gammage said last week that he would expunge King’s arrest record on the day of his assassination. The Solicitor General’s Office told WABE it has not yet been cleared because of workers being overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gammage’s office prosecutes misdemeanors and code violations. Since 2017, he’s cleared the records of more than 3,000 people whose nonviolent and low-level charges were keeping them from getting jobs or obtaining housing. 

“I think it could be a beacon for other people who deserve a second chance, who might have some nonviolent, misdemeanor blemish on their record and be a candidate to have their records cleared,” Gammage said.

“It’s been far too long since we’ve explored the conversation of the legacy of our Civil Rights leaders, and the foot soldiers, and the opportunity to take a look at and start a public dialogue around the issue of exonerating, and standing boldly in saying that those arrests were unjust.”

According to the King Center in Atlanta, the Civil Rights icon was arrested 30 times throughout his life. Many of those arrests were because of acts of civil disobedience, like the Rich’s Department Store sit-in that took place here in Atlanta.

King joined the Atlanta Student Movement‘s campaign of boycotts and sit-ins on Oct. 19, 1960, when he was arrested after asking to be served in a whites-only dining room at Rich’s.

Gammage sat down with “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam to share why he feels the move is so important.