Coretta Scott King Dies at 78

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

January 31, 2006

The 78-year-old widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. passed away early Tuesday morning at a medical center in Mexico, where she was being treated after suffering a massive stroke and heart attack last summer.

King was the first lady of the Civil Rights Movement, and an inspiration to many. In 1968 after her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died, she vowed to keep his legacy alive, and that's exactly what she did.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King shared a dream, a common vision of a nation no longer infested with racism and violence.

Like her husband, Mrs. King devoted her life to non-violent protest and peace.

"He said she was as committed to this movement as I am, but she was also behind him, playing a role behind the scenes of support, of helping him in various kinds of ways that we never saw, but you knew somebody was there and it was she," said NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond.

Bond knew Mrs. King personally. "The word that always comes to mind is gracious," he explained. "She was gracious, and I know it's cliché to say, but she was a lady in every since of the word."

Coretta Scott King was a wife, a mother and an activist.

She gave Dr. King strength during the height of the struggle and comforted the nation when he was assassinated.

Now those who've only read about her pause to reflect on her legacy.

"Her contributions laid the ground work for it to be an acceptable thing for black women to have power more in our society," said Dominique Baker.

"I think she was instrumental in a lot of the changes that have happened through our lifetime, and I think she had the right idea," said Helen Norgleet-Shiflett.

It was an idea of freedom and hope, that continues to live on.

Plans are in the works to honor Dr. King with a monument on the national mall, a fitting tribute to the work he started, and his wife Coretta continued. Mrs. King worked for more than a decade to have her husband's birthday observed as a National Holiday. The work paid off in 1986 when the nation celebrated its first Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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