Tuesday, January 31, 2006

U.S.A.| Coretta Scott King dies at 78

Mrs. Coretta Scott King, wife and widow of the slain American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., has died. Mrs. King had suffered a stroke and heart attack in August 2005 and according to news reports she passed away peacefully in her sleep late on Monday night at a California medical center where she was undergoing therapy for her stroke. Like the late Rosa Parks who died in October 2005, Coretta Scott King was an important icon of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement from the 1950’s–1980’s. Both women were deeply committed to non-violent action for civil rights and equality for all Americans. Both of these great women have left their mark on the conscience and history of our nation.

New York Times article by Peter Applebome (January 31st) gives an excellent background on her life and an amusing anecdote about the courtship between the ambitious young Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and the intelligent, beautiful and self-confident Coretta Scott during her university days at the New England Conservatory of Music in the early 1950’s.

Her first encounter with the man who would become her husband did not begin auspiciously. Dr. King, very much in the market for a wife, called her after getting her name from a friend and announced: "You know every Napoleon has his Waterloo," he said. "I'm like Napoleon. I'm at my Waterloo, and I'm on my knees."

"That's absurd," Ms. Scott, two years his elder, replied. "You don't even know me."

Still, she agreed to meet for lunch the next day, only to be put off initially that he wasn't taller. But she was impressed by his erudition and confidence and he saw in this refined, intelligent woman what he was looking for as the wife of a preacher from one of Atlanta's most prominent ministerial families. When he proposed, she deliberated for six months before finally saying "yes" and they were married in the garden of her parents' house on June 18, 1953. The 350 guests, elegant big-city folks from Atlanta and rural neighbors from Alabama, made it the biggest wedding, white or black, the area had ever seen.

And even before the wedding she made it clear she intended to remain her own woman. She stunned Dr. King's father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., who presided over the wedding, by demanding that she wanted the promise to obey her husband removed from the wedding vows. Reluctantly, he went along. After it was over, the bridegroom fell asleep in the car back to Atlanta while the new Mrs. King did the driving.

There are a number of eulogies and information available online about the life and times of Coretta Scott King to help those of you who are unfamiliar with her and those of us who may have forgotten. I have listed some of those resources below. I do want to leave you with some words by Coretta Scott King delivered during the August 2003 Recalling MLK Dream speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the famous 1963 March on Washington. Her words are most appropriate for everyone the world over in these troubled times that we live in today:

“We must make our hearts instruments of Peace and non-violence because when the heart is right, the mind and the body will follow.”
Coretta Scott King @ The Lincoln Memorial - August 28, 2003

Go with God in Peace and we thank you for your wise guidance and great love for all these years, Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Amen.

Online resources about the life of Coretta Scott King:

Google News Search: Coretta Scott King

New York Times (January 31, 2006)
Coretta Scott King, 78, Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dies

NPR (National Public Radio) Remembrances

Coretta Scott King dies at 78 (audio features)

NPR: The March on Washington 40-Year Commemorative
WGBH: 1963 March on Washington (original audio archives)
PBS Online News Hour: Remembering the March 40th Anniversary
CBS News Recalling MLK’s Dream Speech (with video)

Stanford University
The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute

Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia)
Coretta Scott King

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