King, Coretta Scott 1927–2006
King, Coretta Scott 1927–2006
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 27, 1927, in Marion, AL; died of heart and respiratory arrest, January 31, 2006, in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Activist and author. The widow of civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., King herself was a dominant leader in equal rights for minorities and women, as well as a champion of political causes. Although her childhood in Alabama was marked by poverty, her parents were hard workers and, overall, they were more financially secure than many blacks in the South at the time. They believed in a good education, and King was able to attend a private missionary school before continuing her education at Antioch College. There she earned her B.A., then she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she completed a Mus.B. in 1954; later, in 1971, she also received a doctorate from that institution. It was here that she first met her future husband, who was immediately entranced by her intelligence and beauty. King herself was less impressed with his effusive initial declarations of love, but was eventually won over by the young philosophy student from a prominent family of ministers. They married in 1953, and King followed her husband to Atlanta and then Montgomery. She never anticipated what was to come in 1955, when Reverend King was thrust into a prominent role during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. While her husband became more and more famous, King resolved not to be merely a supportive wife but also a participant in the civil rights movement. Her husband resisted at first, but later admitted that she was a strong woman who deserved to be in the forefront of the fight for equal rights. King became particularly active in organizing dozens of Freedom Concerts to promote their cause and raise money. After her husband's 1968 assassination, she resolved to take up his banner and continue to work for his cause. Gradually finding her own voice, King was active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and expanded her husband's initial goals to include not only minority, but also women's rights. She joined the National Organization for Women and would later take up such international causes as the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Keeping her husband's memory alive was of huge importance to the widow, as well, and she successfully lobbied the federal government to establish Martin Luther King, Jr. day, which was first celebrated in 1986. She also founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta. Unfortunately, sometimes such activities were criticized. For example, some complained that her focus on the center took much-needed funds away from the SCLC. Others were puzzled, too, when King declared that she believed her husband's accused killer, James Earl Ray, was innocent; Ray died in 1998 before a new trial was ever set. Despite such occasional controversies, however, King remained a beloved leading figure for equal rights throughout her life. A heart attack and stroke in 2005 slowed her down, though, and she also suffered from ovarian cancer and cerebral vascular disease, which would eventually contribute to her death. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes for her commitment to human rights, King was the author of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Companion: Quotations from the Speeches, Essays, and Books of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1999) and the autobiography My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. (1969).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
King, Coretta Scott, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Holt (New York, NY), 1969.
Chicago Tribune, February 1, 2006, section 1, pp. 1, 14.
Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2006, pp. A1, A10-11.
New York Times, February 1, 2006, pp. A1, A22.
Times (London, England), February 1, 2006, p. 60.
Washington Post, February 1, 2006, pp. A1, A6.