Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. King believed that people have the power and responsibility to change their community for the better. “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve,” Dr. King once wrote. The truth in these words has never faded. The legacy of his life and teachings live on not only through physical memorials and the echoes of his words, but also through the acts of dedicated men and women across the world.

On May 9th, 2011, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill to create the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council, which consists of nine Georgians serving four-year terms.

“It will be the duty of this council to promote the principles of nonviolence, peace, social justice and the awareness and appreciation of the civil rights movement and the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Governor Deal said during the signing of the bill.

Supported by the Georgia Commission for Service and Volunteerism at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council will promote and plan statewide activities advocating Dr. King’s principles and teachings, on MLK Day and beyond.

Council Members

Honorable Rita Jackson Samuels

Atlanta, Georgia

Appointed November 18, 2011 by

Governor of Georgia

Samuels is the co-founder and director of public outreach of Women Flying High, LLC, a female-owned consulting and public engagement enterprise in Atlanta. She is a former White House consultant and special assistant to the deputy director of Community Services Administration. In 1971, she became the first African-American in Georgia history appointed to serve as coordinator of the Governor’s Council on Human Relations. She was the first chair of the Georgia Commission on Women and is a Rosalynn Carter fellow at the Institute of Women’s Studies at Emory University. In 2009, she was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame located at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site.


Dilyana I. Kovacheva

Norcross, Georgia

Appointed January 13, 2012 by Governor of Georgia

Kovacheva is a freshman at Georgia Perimeter College where she is a psychology and pre-law major. She is both an English as a Second Language and First Things First teacher with the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. She served as a member of the Student Government Association, Spanish Honor Society, Latin Honor Society, Art Honor Society and Future Educators of America while in high school. Kovacheva was a recipient of the Georgia Perimeter College Commitment to Service Scholarship and was selected to participate in the Georgia Perimeter College Bonner Leader Program.


Honorable Christine Miller-Betts

Grovetown, Georgia

Appointed November 18, 2011 by Governor of Georgia

Miller-Betts is the executive director of the Lucy Craft Museum of Black History in Augusta. She serves on the board of trustees of Historic Augusta and the Southeastern Museum Association. She is president of the Augusta Women’s Civic Club, a lifetime member of the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women. Miller-Betts earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theology from Pacific Lutheran University. She has one daughter, Carol Angelee, and two grandchildren. She resides in Grovetown.


Honorable Lauren Elizabeth Gaia

Decatur, Georgia

Appointed November 18, 2011 by Governor of Georgia

Gaia is a student at Agnes Scott College majoring in international relations and religious studies. She is an intern with Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and Agnes Scott College’s Office of Sustainability. She has served as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives and volunteered with the DeKalb County Office of Neighborhood Empowerment. She is a co-founder of the Better Together Project at Agnes Scott, a national service initiative of the Interfaith Youth Core. A recipient of the Kilimanjaro Study Abroad Award, she will study in Ifrane, Morocco, this upcoming spring. She resides in Decatur.

Lauren Gaia

Honorable William "Bill" Austin

Riceboro, Georgia

Appointed November 18, 2011 by Governor of Georgia

Austin retired after 26 years as a manufacturing manager with Lockheed Martin’s Missiles Systems Division in Orlando. Prior to Lockheed Martin, he was employed with Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta and General Electric’s Aircraft Engine Division in Cincinnati. He is currently serving his fourth year as mayor of the city of Riceboro and 10th year as president of the board of directors of the Dorchester Improvement Association. Austin earned a bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University and a master’s degree from Rollins College. He and his wife, Charmayne, have three children and eight grandchildren. They reside in Riceboro.


Honorable Thomas Lee Smith

Stockbridge, Georgia

Appointed November 18, 2011 by Governor of Georgia

Smith is a high school civics and American government teacher with DeKalb County Schools. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Georgia Perimeter College. He serves on the Edwards-Miller Foundation for Physical Disabilities board and the Mission Outreach to Africa board of directors. He is the recipient of the Kennesaw State University Presidential Leadership Award and the Atlanta Braves Community Service Award. He served for eight years as the honorary consul general of Peru in Atlanta. He and his wife, Orieth, have three sons and one daughter. They reside in Stockbridge.


Honorable Emanuel Jones

Decatur, Georgia

Appointed August 1, 2011 by Georgia Lieutenant Governor

Emanuel Jones, a Democrat, was first elected to the Georgia Senate from Georgia's 10th District in 2004. Sen. Jones represents SW DeKalb, Henry County and East Atlanta. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. Senator Jones is the Secretary of the Interstate Cooperation Committee. He also serves on the State and Local Governmental Operations, Veterans and Military Affairs, Urban Affairs, Interstate Cooperation and Public Safety and Homeland Security committees.


Honorable Toney Collins

Conyers, Georgia

Appointed July 1, 2011 by Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives

Representative Collins finished his first term in office 2009. He represented part of Gwinnett, part of Newton, and part of Rockdale Counties. During his service, he sat on the Banks & Banking Committee, the Insurance Committee and the Interstate Coorporation Committee.