Coretta Scott King died on January 30, 2006, at the age of 78, she was an American author, activist, and civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1953 until his death in 1968.
Born to Obadiah Scott (1899–1998) and Bernice McMurry Scott (1904–1996) in Marion, Alabama.
She was born in her parents’ home with her paternal great-grandmother Delia Scott, a former slave, presiding as midwife on April 27, 1927.
Coretta’s mother became known for her musical talent and singing voice. As a child Bernice attended the local Crossroads School and only had a fourth grade education.
Bernice’s older siblings, however, attended boarding school at the Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute.
King played a prominent role in the years after her husband’s 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women’s Movement and the LGBT rights movement.
King founded the King Center and sought to make his birthday a national holiday.
King finally succeeded when Ronald Reagan signed legislation which established Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
She later broadened her scope to include both opposition to apartheid and advocacy for LGBT rights.
King became friends with many politicians before and after Martin Luther King’s death, most notably John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy. At age 10, Coretta worked to increase the family’s income.
She had an older sister named Edythe Scott Bagley (1924–2011) an older sister named Eunice who did not survive childhood, and a younger brother named Obadiah Leonard (1930–2012).
According to a DNA analysis, she was partly descended from the Mende people of Sierra Leone. The Scott family had owned a farm since the American Civil War, but were not particularly wealthy.
During the Great Depression the Scott children picked cotton to help earn money and shared a bedroom with their parents.
At age 12, Coretta Scott entered Lincoln School as a seventh grader, and with temperament changes. Scott also developed an interest in the opposite sex.
On September 1, 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
It was a sacrifice for Coretta, who had to give up her dreams of becoming a classical singer.
Her devotion to the cause while giving up on her own ambitions would become symbolic of the actions of African-American women during the movement.
The couple moved into the church’s parsonage on South Jackson Street shortly after this. Coretta became a member of the choir and taught Sunday school, as well as participating in the Baptist Training Union and Missionary Society.
She made her first appearance at the First Baptist Church on March 6, 1955, where according to E. P. Wallace, she “captivated her concert audience.”
Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr. had four children together: Yolanda Denise (b. 1955), an actress; Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), who now serves as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Dexter Scott (b. 1961), who runs the King Library and Archive; and Bernice Albertine (b. 1963), a lawyer and Baptist minister.