By Tom Ramstack
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Friends of civil rights leader Walter Fauntroy, who left Washington for the Middle East in 2012 and refuses to come home, asked the public on Wednesday to help his family financially.
The 82-year-old former congressional delegate, who was an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, is living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A bank is foreclosing on his house and a judge has issued a bench warrant to make him answer for bad debts.
His wife, Dorothy, 80, is struggling to repay a loan her husband took out in 2006. The couple filed for bankruptcy this month, claiming between $500,000 and $1 million in debt.
"There's something wrong here. We know that," said Denise Rolark-Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer newspaper, during a news conference at the United Black Fund headquarters.
Several of his friends want to travel to Dubai to meet with Fauntroy to assess his condition and encourage him to come home, she said.
The bankruptcy filing in District of Columbia Superior Court said Fauntroy had suffered "a medical emergency," but gave no details.
His friends also want to rule out the possibility that an age-related health problem might be influencing his decisions. United Black Fund officials called the news conference to solicit donations for the Fauntroy family.
Fauntroy served from 1971 to 1991 as the District of Columbia first delegate in Congress in more than a century.
He helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. organize the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" protest in Selma, Alabama, that led to the landmark Voting Rights Act.
He retired as pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington six years ago.
Johnny Barnes, Fauntroy's attorney, said he had exchanged letters, email and telephone calls with Fauntroy as recently as three days ago.
Fauntroy told him he was on a mission to promote peace and environmentally friendly technology and to end world hunger, Barnes said.
Barnes said Fauntroy was not trying to escape debt or the warrant issued by a Prince George's County, Maryland, judge after Fauntroy wrote a $55,000 bad check to a company that helped organize a 2009 inauguration ball for President Barack Obama.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Peter Cooney)