Atlanta (CNN) -- The Rev. Howard Creecy Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, died early Thursday in Atlanta from what is believed to be a heart attack, spokesman Maynard Eaton said.
Creecy died about 12:30 a.m., Eaton said. An autopsy was being performed Thursday.
Creecy, 57, was elected president of the SCLC in January after Bernice King, daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., declined the post, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Creecy, pastor of Olivet Church in Fayette County, Georgia, had previously served as the interim president of the SCLC.
Before joining Olivet Church, Creecy was senior pastor of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta for 26 years, according to the Olivet Church website. He and his wife have two daughters.
The SCLC, one of the nation's most prominent civil rights groups, was founded by King and others in 1957.