Civil rights leader Dr. Charles Koen dies at age 72

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By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

Civil rights activist Reverend Dr. Charles Koen died Friday, July 20 2018, in a hospital near Cairo, Illinois, a source confirmed on Monday.

Dr. Koen, who was born on August 7, 1945, once worked with several organizations in Southern Illinois during the mid-and late 1960s. He founded the Black Liberators, a militant civil rights organization, in St. Louis, MO in 1968.

Koen was active from a young age in the civil rights movement and the political process. As young as 16, he organized youth, along with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), to fight against segregation in Cairo. He once ran for the U.S. House, and for governor of Illinois. Koen worked with a number of civil rights organizations including Rainbow PUSH, and was field coordinator for President William Bill Clinton.

Reverend Dr. Charles Koen in his younger days.

Because of his social consciousness and activism, Koen was no stranger to law enforcement. His civil rights and political activities often drew him into the arms of the legal system. On May 21, 1991 he was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for theft and forgery. His sentence ordered him to pay more than $636,000 in restitution and $5,000 in penalties.

Through several cases Koen was convicted of embezzlement, misapplication of federal program funds, and other charges; he told this reporter those charges were not true.

In 1985, arson destroyed the building where Koen’s United Front, a social service agency, was housed. In putting out that fire, a fireman was injured. Koen was ordered to make restitution to the city of Cairo for the disability payments made to the fireman hurt while putting out that fire.

Fellow activists sometimes viewed Koen as a target of government. In one indictment, he was charged with a Class 1 unauthorized control of property over $500,000 and was accused of exerting unauthorized control of an abandoned building in Harvey, Illinois. He was accused of accepting a deed on that property, which was once owned by United Way of Harvey, on behalf of the United Front.

The Illinois Attorney General charged Dr. Koen with unauthorized control over the property even though the Attorney General did not file similar charges against the previous owners of the building, who did not pay the property taxes or utilities for many years.

Many leaders accuse the federal government of conducting a “witch hunt” against Koen over the years.

Dr. Koen leaves to mourn his wife of 54 years, Clydia, two daughters, Robbie and Cara, sons, King David and Charles Jacob,  a brother, Clarence Mallory, six sisters, Linda Mallory Brown, Sandra Mallory, Shelly Mallory, Naomi Christine Brown, Donna Brown, Jeanie Mallory and a host of friends and family.

Visitation for Dr. Charles Koen will be held Saturday, August 4, 2018, at the Cairo Junior/Senior High School, 4201 Sycamore, Cairo, Illinois, from 10 a.m. with funeral services following at 12 noon. Burial will be held at the Green Lawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery, 3615 Sycamore St., in Villa Ridge Illinois.

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