Weeks after the nation celebrated the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his widow, Coretta Scott King, died Monday at the age of 78 at a hospital in Mexico.
King had suffered a stroke and heart attack last August and suffered from health trouble until her death from “insufficient cardio-respiratory,” although the underlying causes were cerebral vascular disease and ovarian cancer.
“It was a sad day; we will miss her spirit,” said Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. member and sister of the late Mrs. King, Andonnia Maiben. She explained, “it’s going to be difficult but somebody has to pick up where she left off by taking up her passion and defending Civil Rights.”
King participated in protests with her late husband during the racially segregated era of the 50’s and 60’s. She continued to fight for equality even after her husband death as history professor James S. Olson describes Coretta Scott King as “the mother of the civil rights movement and was the one that kept the light of Martin Luther King’s dream shining.”
King was born on April 27, 1927 and was raised in Heiberger, Alabama. She experienced the hardships of the racially segregated south at a young age. King went from walking five miles a day to a school in Marion, Alabama and observing whites riding buses to their near by all-white schools, to becoming valedictorian of her high school class.
King began to get involved with civil rights issues because of her involvement with the Antioch College chapter of NAACP and Antioch College’s Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees.
It was not until King’s graduate school days in Boston that she met her husband who we remember today as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. They were married in 1953 and moved to Montgomery, Alabama in 1954, almost a year before the legendary Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and sparked the fire of the civil rights movement.
Soon after, civil rights were not only representative of American social progress but emblemized worldwide struggle for human liberation and all forms of oppression.
King continued to fight for freedom after Rev. King’s death and traveled through out the world on good will missions. Mrs. King “broadened civil rights globally, it was not just an American issue but a world issue, with Nelson Mandela in South Africa, women’s rights in Africa and in the Middle East,” said Olson.
Students at SHSU feel proud of King’s accomplishments. “I think she epitomizes what a black woman should be,” said Kaci Timmons, SHSU student. She added “Even after the death of her husband, she was not just an icon, but she actively carried on his legacy,”
Mrs. King also pushed for the Martin Luther King day, an observance holiday that was celebrated for the first time in 1986. Mrs. King will be buried next to her husband in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta.