Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She was 78. Coretta Scott King turned “a life shattered by her husband’s assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality.”
After her husband’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she kept his dream alive while also raising their four children.
She worked to keep his ideology of equality for all people at the forefront of the nation’s agenda. She goaded and pulled for more than a decade to have her husband’s birthday observed as a national holiday, then watched with pride in 1983 as President Reagan signed the bill into law. The first federal holiday was celebrated in 1986.
King became a symbol, in her own right, of her husband’s struggle for peace and brotherhood, presiding with a quiet, steady, stoic presence over seminars and conferences on global issues.
“I’m more determined than ever that my husband’s dream will become a reality,” King said soon after his slaying, a demonstration of the strong will that lay beneath the placid calm and dignity of her character.
She was devoted to her children and considered them her first responsibility. But she also wrote a book, “My Life With Martin Luther King Jr.,” and, in 1969, founded the multimillion-dollar Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said today, as Martin Luther King was the father of the civil rights movement, “she was the mother of that movement. They together were the force in this nation.”
“In an area where our founding fathers failed — founding fathers wrote slavery into the Constitution, we fought a civil war, but it wasn’t really until we had Dr. King and Coretta Scott King in the ’50s that awakened the conscience of the nation so the political leadership of the early ’60s could begin what I call the march to progress, that of knocking down walls of discrimination on race, religion, ethnicity and gender, and disability. And we have benefited so much from their leadership and from their inspiration.”
“A final point I want to mention is that I’ve had the good opportunity to get to know the children over the years, and I have seen the time that they have spent with their mother,” said Kennedy, whose two slain brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), worked closely with King. “Their mother was not only a powerful and charismatic figure and leader for our time, but she helped those children grow up to be individuals with a sense of dignity, a sense of pride in their heritage, and their strong commitment to do something for someone else. I admire her for that, as well.”