Dr. King’s window dies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Civil Rights luminary Coretta Scott King, a native of Marion, died Tuesday at the age of 78.

The Perry County native – who married the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the garden of her parents’ rural Marion home – was noted for her strength in continuing her husband’s work long after his death by assassination.

“For nearly four decades, Coretta King carried her husband’s legacy with such dignity,” U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., said Tuesday. “In a climate where the strategy is often to out-shout the other side, Mrs. King epitomized that a quiet but powerful voice could still prevail.

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In her hometown of Marion, Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner said a memorial would be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Mount Tabor AME Zion Church, where King attended services as a girl.

Mrs. King, who suffered a stroke and heart attack last year, died at age 78 at a holistic health center in Mexico, family members said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said her death marked “the passing of an historic leader in the movement for equal rights in America.”

“Through many dangers, toils and snares, she served as a partner of Dr. King in the monumental and peaceful drive for equality,” Sessions said.

“She enshrined the teachings of her husband. She was able to continue his legacy in a way no other person could,” said Thomas McPherson Jr., who oversaw the restoration of the King family home in Montgomery.

Alabama residents recalled Coretta Scott King as a quiet but deeply supportive wife who stood by her husband as he organized and launched the bus boycott, and endured the most dangerous days of the civil rights movement that followed.

His April 4, 1968 assassination left her to keep his legacy strong while raising their four children.

“We see her as a mother, a single parent. Her spouse was taken from her at the prime of her life,” said the Rev. Michael Foxx Thurman, pastor at the historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached between 1954-1960 and served as the inspirational figurehead for the boycott.

“It was an honor to have had her serve in this place and live in this city,” he said.

Thurman and members of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was once led by Martin Luther King Jr., said they were in the process of making plans for a Montgomery memorial to commemorate his wife.

As word of her death spread Tuesday, dozens of schoolchildren filed into the former home of Coretta Scott King, the parsonage of her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as he rose to prominence in the 1950s.

As they walked through rooms filled with original or replicas of the period furnishings, they listened to a crackly recording of his famous “I have a dream” speech playing in the background, and remembered how she sought to keep the dream alive.

Some tried to imagine how Mrs. King must have felt after she and the couple’s first baby, Yolanda, escaped injury when the home was bombed 50 years ago – on Jan. 30, 1956 – as her husband led the historic Montgomery bus boycott.

“She was special,” said 8-year-old Kaitlyn Metz, a second-grader touring the home. “She was special to us because she’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife and they were civil rights leaders.”

A small wreath of twigs wrapped in black ribbon was displayed on a stand in King’s memory on the lawn of the home, now a tourist stop a few blocks from the Capitol.

Johnnie Carr, a 95-year-old boycott veteran and MIA president, said she always appreciated King’s quiet resolve and her devotion as a wife and mother.

“She carried out the plan he started,” Carr said. “She had done a great job since her husband passed. I feel very much saddened. She was one of the great women in our community.”

James Norman, a Montgomery resident, said he would remember King as the “first lady of the civil rights movement.” Norman said he also admired her for her quiet resolve and her passion to carry on her husband’s message of human rights, peace and equality.