August 18, 2006

Civil Rights Icon Resigns From Wal - Mart Group

Filed at 8:08 a.m. ET

NEW YORK ( Reuters) - Civil rights leader Andrew Young resigned as chairman of a group intended to boost Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s (WMT.N) image after he made remarks to a newspaper disparaging Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners.

Young told the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African-American newspaper, that Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners had ``ripped off'' urban communities for years, ``selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables,'' The New York Times said.

In a statement posted on the Working Families for Wal-Mart Web site on Thursday, Young apologized for his remarks and asked for forgiveness from those who he offended.

``I recently made some comments about former store owners in my neighborhood that were completely and utterly inappropriate,'' the statement said. ``Those comments run contrary to everything I have dedicated my life to.''

Young, an aide to Martin Luther King during the civil rights protests of the 1960s and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta, took the job as chairman of the steering committee for the company-backed Working Families for Wal-Mart in February.

The appointment generated criticism. In a letter sent to Young and the media in April, church and civil rights leaders assailed Young for his work on behalf of the giant retailer.

Wal-Mart says its stores bring jobs and its low prices benefit consumers.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based firm -- the world's largest retailer -- has stepped up efforts to counter criticism that it pays poverty-level wages, discriminates against women and drives local retailers out of business.

Working Families for Wal-Mart could not immediately be reached for additional comment.