howard_creecy.jpgATLANTA (AP) _ The interim president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference says the civil rights organization will carry on the vision of its fallen leader.

Isaac Newton Farris Jr. says the Rev. Howard Creecy Jr. was passionate about his plans for SCLC even in his final hours, when he was focused on plans for the group's annual convention scheduled for Aug. 14 and Aug. 15 in Atlanta.

The 57-year-old preacher and activist died Thursday of an apparent heart attack. Creecy had assumed the helm of the group in January after months of bitter infighting and legal wrangling. Colleagues say he was eager to get past the period of tumult and restore the SCLC to its mission of social justice.

“While we have obviously taken a bit of a blow here with the loss of our leader, the organization is still standing,'' Farris said at a news conference Monday. “We're going to continue to follow our mission and the path (Creecy) has so diligently laid before us. If there was one individual who was responsible for this organization being here today, that would be Howard Creecy. He saved this organization … when others questioned whether it should even be here.''

Among Creecy's priorities were education, voting rights and HIV/AIDS awareness, said Damien Conners, who is in charge of programming for SCLC. The 26-year-old was part of Creecy's strategy to make the organization relevant to young people.

“Dr. Creecy was excited about reorganizing, rebuilding and restructuring,'' Conners said. “He motivated us.''

The convention will focus on moving SCLC forward, and included in that mantra will be discussions about the next board of directors. Farris, who assumes the helm with Creecy's untimely death, declined to say Monday whether he would be running for election.

“I have not had a chance to talk to all of the board,'' Farris said. “Suffice it to say we will elect a president.''

The SCLC has stagnated amid a vacuum of leadership in recent years, something Creecy was seeking to address as president. The organization has had four presidents in seven years.

A candlelight vigil to remember Creecy is scheduled Wednesday at the SCLC's national headquarters in downtown Atlanta. His funeral is scheduled for Saturday.