Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi has been presented with a Martin Luther King Jr. peace medal. But it is not the same one which has been awarded in the past to President Carter, former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young and labor leader Cesar Chavez.
A spokesman for Coretta King said in Atlanta yesterday that she has "just become aware" from leaders of the Jewish community that Qaddafi received a medal in Libya in September from the Rev. Hosea Williams, president of the Atlanta Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. When she heard about the award she "just shook her head," her spokesman Steven Klein said, and "she has not yet had time to sit down with the executive director and write a letter or something" to set the matter straight.
Klein said they were "shocked" to learn what Williams had done. "under no circumstances would we consider giving an award to Qaddafi," Klein said. "We have absolutely nothing to do with this . . . anybody can create an award and call it anything they want to."
The Williams award is not to be confused with the Martin Luther King Jr. nonviolent peace award which Mrs. King has given to Cater, Young, Chavez and other "serious humanitarian, nonviolent activities." A citation and a $1,000 check accompanies that medal.
Not knowing where Williams had gotten the medal given to Qaddafi, Klein checked yesterday to make sure that Williams -- the former executive director of the national SCLC who was fired last April for his "tough guy" posture -- had not actually used one of Mrs. King's medals.
"You're not going to believe this," Klein said after checking. "But we've never actually given a medillion because we couldn't agree on the design. We give a citation and a check and the recipient will get his medal when we have them. They're being designed now. I guess they'll be a likeness of Dr. King and a nice little quote."e
When told the medal to Qaddafi has a profile of King with his famous "I Had A Dream" quote, Klein said: "There are so many King medals -- someone is always giving Mrs. King a different one -- I guess we're going to have a new currency one day."
Klein said that Mrs. King and others at the King Center for Social Change learned about the Qaddafi medal when the South Eastern division of B'nai B'rith had a "mass meeting to discuss making a contribution to the center."
"One of the guys stood up and said he wouldn't give any money because of the award to Qaddafi," Klein said.
Jews in Atlanta heard about the Qaddafi medal in the wake of last month's much publicized "rift" between blacks and Jews -- a rift many observers now have gone on record as saying they believe to have been a "false alarm."
Williams has a "King Center" of his own which is constantly causing confusion, Klein said.
Williams, in the meantime, said that "Coretta knows I gave the medal, but she doesn't have any more influence on me than I do on her. She gave one to Jimmy Carter and I think he's a bad man. Martin Luther King Jr., like Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ, belongs to all mankind."
The Libyan government has further confused the issue by announcing simply that the medal had been awarded to Qaddafi by "a delegation to black Americans" without identifying Williams.
Libyan made the announcement, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others were traveling in the Middle East and on the day that Jackson was meeting with Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.
A lot of Jewish leaders in the U.S. apparently concluded that the medal had come from Jackson.
Jackson, in Washington yesterday, said that he was "hearing for the first time" about the award. While Williams had said earlier that the award was "no secret," Jackson said, "It was a secret to met till just now."
He did not critcize Williams' "right" to give the medal.
"Martin said he looked forward to the day when the sons and daughters of former slaves and former slave masters could sit around a table in brotherhood," Jackson said. "The slavemasters were terrorists. I look forward to the day when they won't be torrorists anymore. Begin got the Nobel. Kissinger got the Nobel. When we favor someone and they're white we call them. 'Freedom Fighters.' When we don't and they aren't, we call them terrorists."
Williams went to Libya with a different delegation that included black bankers and educators and representatives of the black media.
The Williams visit was arranged by the same representative of the Libyan government who traveled to Georgia and first interested Billy Carter in Qaddafi.
Carter was in Libya at the same time and staying at the same hotel, Williams said, "but you know he ain't going to travel with no delegation of black people."
Carter, according to Williams, was there to work out details of "an exchange between Libya and American farmers -- oil for grain."
Williams said his delegation wanted Qaddafi to invest Libyan money in black banks, black manufacturing plants and newspapers and magazines owned by blacks.
But Qaddafi made it clear, Williams said, that he was interested only in dealing with a collection of black leaders. Williams has been putting together a coalition and expects to confer soon with the Libyan embassy in Washington about a date and time for a meeting with those leaders who agree to participate.