The Rev. Howard Creecy Jr., the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, died early Thursday morning of an apparent heart attack at his southwest Atlanta home.
"The family obviously is reeling from what has happened," Creecy family spokesman Ron Sailor told Channel 2's Richard Elliot. "We're all trying to accept the reality of what's happened. There was no pre-warning. The family right now is in a state of trying to grasp this, to know that this is a reality but a heartbreaking reality."
Creecy, 58, became SCLC president just six months ago but is already credited with stabilizing the iconic civil rights organization after years of infighting and a bitter leadership struggle that wound up in court.
"He saved the organization," said SCLC's Interim President Isaac Farris. "The organization was really headed to its death. So I think his legacy will be that he righted the ship, and he saved the ship, because the ship was sinking."
Friends told Elliot that Creecy had plans to fight poverty and unemployment and wanted to bring in younger generations to infuse the SCLC with a new vigor and passion. But, they said, he also wanted to use the older generation to teach.
"Rebrand, refocus, revitalize," SCLC spokesman Maynard Eaton told Elliot. "He said my job is to regain our credibility, regain our vitality and visibility. He was doing that. He was a bridge from what had been to where it's going."
Creecy is survived by his wife, Yolanda, and his two children. No funeral arrangements have been made yet.