Scott King Dies at 78
ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press Writer Wed Feb 1, 2:51 AM ET
ATLANTA - Coretta Scott King, who worked to keep her husband's dream
alive with a chin-held-high grace and serenity that made her a powerful symbol of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s creed
of brotherhood and nonviolence, died Tuesday. She was 78.
"first lady of the civil rights movement" died in her sleep during the night at an alternative medicine clinic in Mexico, her family said. Arrangements were being made to fly
the body back to Atlanta.
had been recovering from a serious stroke and heart attack suffered last August. Just two weeks ago, she made her first public
appearance in a year on the eve of her late husband's birthday.
at the clinic said King was battling advanced ovarian cancer when she arrived there on Thursday. The doctors said the cause
of death was respiratory failure.
of her death led to tributes to King across Atlanta, including
a moment of silence in the Georgia Capitol and piles of flowers placed at the tomb of her slain husband. Flags at the King Center —
the institute devoted to the civil rights leader's legacy — were lowered to half-staff.
wore her grief with grace. She exerted her leadership with dignity," the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who helped found the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference with King's husband in 1957.
Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King's top aides, said Coretta Scott King's fortitude rivaled that of her
husband. "She was strong if not stronger than he was," Young said.
Scott King was a supportive lieutenant to her husband during the most dangerous and tumultuous days of the civil rights movement,
and after his assassination in Memphis, Tenn.,
on April 4, 1968, she carried on his work while also raising their four children.
more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality," the young widow said soon after his slaying.
pushed and goaded politicians for more than a decade to have her husband's birthday observed as a national holiday, achieving
success in 1986. In 1969 she founded the Martin Luther
King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
in Atlanta and used it to confront hunger, unemployment, voting
rights and racism.
center enables us to go out and struggle against the evils in our society," she often said.
also accused movie and TV companies, video arcades, gun manufacturers and toy makers of promoting violence.
became a symbol in her own right of her husband's struggle for peace and brotherhood, presiding with an almost regal bearing
over seminars and conferences.
Rev. Jesse Jackson who was with her husband
when he was assassinated, said Tuesday that she understood that every time her husband left home, there was the chance he
might not come back. Jackson pronounced her a "freedom fighter."
all great champions she learned to function with pain and keep serving," he said, adding: "She kept marching. She did not
President Bush hailed her as "a remarkable and
courageous woman and a great civil rights leader."
her stroke, King missed the annual King celebration in Atlanta two weeks ago but appeared with her children at an awards dinner
a few days earlier, smiling from her wheelchair but not speaking. The crowd gave her a standing ovation.
her repeated calls for unity among civil rights groups, her own children have been divided over whether to sell the King Center to the
National Park Service and let the family focus less on grounds maintenance and more on King's message. Two of the four children
were strongly against such a move.
Sonny Perdue ordered flags at all state buildings to be flown at half-staff and offered to allow King's body to lie in repose
at the Georgia Capitol. There was no immediate response to the offer, the governor's office said.
died at Santa Monica Health Institute in Rosarito Beach, Mexico,
south of San Diego, said her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley of Cheyney, Pa. She had gone to California to rest and be with family, according to Young.
Scott was studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music and planning on a singing career when a friend introduced
her to King, a young Baptist minister studying at Boston University.
said she wanted me to meet a very promising young minister from Atlanta,"
King once said, adding with a laugh: "I wasn't interested in meeting a young minister at that time."
recalled that on their first date he told her: "You know, you have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married
someday." Eighteen months later, in 1953, they did.
couple moved to Montgomery, Ala., where he became pastor of
the Dexter Avenue Baptist
Church and helped lead the 1955 Montgomery
bus boycott that Rosa Parks set in motion when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. With that campaign, King
began enacting his philosophy of nonviolent, direct social action.
the years, King was with her husband in his finest hours. She was at his side as he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
She marched beside him from Selma, Ala., into Montgomery in 1965 on the triumphant drive for a voting rights law.
days after his death, she flew to Memphis with three of her
children to lead thousands marching in honor of her slain husband and to plead for his cause.
think you rise to the occasion in a crisis," she once said. "I think the Lord gives you strength when you need it. God was
using us — and now he's using me, too."
King family, especially Coretta Scott King and her father-in-law, Martin Luther King Sr., were highly visible in 1976 when
former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter ran for president. When an integration dispute at Carter's Plains church created a furor,
Coretta Scott King campaigned at Carter's side the next day.
She later was named by Carter to serve as part of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, where Young was the ambassador.
1997, she spoke out in favor of a push to grant a trial for James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty to killing her husband and
if no new light is shed on the facts concerning my husband's assassination, at least we and the nation can have the satisfaction
of knowing that justice has run its course in this tragedy," she told a judge.
trial never took place; Ray died in 1998.
was born April 27, 1927, in Perry County, Ala. Her father ran a country store. To help her family during the Depression, young
Coretta picked cotton. Later, she worked as a waitress to earn her way through Antioch
College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
1994, she stepped down as head of the King Center, passing the job to son Dexter, who in turn passed the job on to her other
son, Martin III, in 2004. Dexter continued to serve as the center's chief operating officer. Martin III also has served on
the Fulton County (Ga.) commission and as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, co-founded
by his father in 1957. Daughter Yolanda became an actress and the youngest child, Bernice, became a Baptist minister.
1993, on the 25th anniversary of her husband's death, King said the war in Vietnam
that her husband opposed "has been replaced by an undeclared war on our central cities, a war being fought by gangs with guns
value of life in our cities has become as cheap as the price of a gun," she said.
London, she stood in 1969 in the same carved pulpit in St.
Paul's Cathedral where her husband preached five years earlier.
despair at all the evil and unrest and disorder in the world today," she preached, "but I see a new social order and I see
the dawn of a new day."