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Higher Education Community Mourns the Loss of Coretta Scott King

Higher Education Community Mourns the Loss of Coretta Scott King 

      Many higher education institutions are remembering the life of Coretta Scott King, who died Tuesday at the age of 78.

      Said Dr. Johnnetta Cole, president of Bennett College in North Carolina: “News of the passing of Mrs. Coretta Scott King went straight to that place in the heart of everyone in the Bennett College family where tears are made. As we grieve the physical loss of Mrs. King, an extraordinary and beloved champion of civil rights and human rights, we must renew our own efforts to be effective drum majors for peace, drum majors for justice, and drum majors for righteous.”

      King spoke at Bennett’s inaugural President Presents lecture series on Sept. 27, 2002. In her presentation Mrs. King said, “I would like to think that my years of working for peace, human rights and a society free of racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of bigotry, have helped to make life a little better for your generation.” She also received an honorary doctorate degree from Bennett College during the May 2003 commencement.

      Spelman College in Atlanta, the alma mater of Mrs. King’s youngest daughter Bernice, also paid tribute. “Known worldwide for her indomitable spirit and commitment to human rights, Mrs. Coretta Scott King left an indelible mark upon the Spelman College community. While our hearts mourn her death, we pause to celebrate the life and legacy of this civil rights icon and moral leader. We extend our deepest condolences to her entire family.”

      Mrs. King graduated from Antioch with a B.A. in music and education and won a scholarship to study concert singing at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She also received an honorary doctorate from the Conservatory in 1971, which is remembering her through photos on their Web site at (

      Flags at the King Center were lowered to half-staff yesterday morning.

      “We appreciate the prayers and condolences from people across the country,” the King family said in a statement. The family said she died during the night. The widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. suffered a serious stroke and heart attack in 2005.

      “It’s a bleak morning for me and for many people and yet it’s a great morning because we have a chance to look at her and see what she did and who she was,” poet Maya Angelou said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

      “It’s bleak because I can’t many of us can’t hear her sweet voice but it’s great because she did live, and she was ours. I mean African-Americans and White Americans and Asians, Spanish-speaking she belonged to us and that’s a great thing.”

      Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, the civil rights activist who is close to the King family, broke the news on NBC’s “Today” show: “I understand that she was asleep last night and her daughter (Bernice King) went in to wake her up and she was not able to and so she quietly slipped away. Her spirit will remain with us just as her husband’s has.”

      She was a supportive lieutenant to her husband during the most tumultuous days of the American civil rights movement, and after his assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she kept his dream alive while also raising their four children.

      “I’m more determined than ever that my husband’s dream will become a reality,” King said soon after his slaying.

      She goaded and pulled for more than a decade to have her husband’s birthday observed as a national holiday, first celebrated in 1986.

      King became a symbol, in her own right, of her husband’s struggle for peace and brotherhood, presiding with a quiet, steady, stoic presence over seminars and conferences on global issues.

      “She was truly the first lady of the human rights movement,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement. “The only thing worse than losing her is if we never had her.”

      King also wrote a book, “My Life With Martin Luther King Jr.,” and, in 1969 founded the multimillion-dollar Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She saw to it that the center became deeply involved with the issues she said breed violence hunger, unemployment, voting rights and racism.

      Coretta Scott was studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music and planning on a singing career when a friend introduced her to Martin Luther King, a young Baptist minister studying at Boston University.

      She recalled that on their first date he told her: “You know, you have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.” Eighteen months later June 18, 1953, they did, at her parents’ home in Marion, Ala.

      The couple moved to Montgomery, Ala., where he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and organized the famed Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. With that campaign, King began enacting his philosophy of direct social action.

      Over the years, King was with her husband in his finest hours. She was at his side as he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. She marched beside him from Selma, Ala., into Montgomery in 1965 for the triumphal climax to his drive for a voting rights law.

      Only days after his death, she flew to Memphis with three of her children to lead thousands marching in honor of her slain husband and to plead for his cause.

      “I think you rise to the occasion in a crisis,” she once said. “I think the Lord gives you strength when you need it. God was using us and now he’s using me, too.”

— Staff and News Wire Report

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