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‘First Lady’ of Civil Rights Movement Remembered
By: Cynthia Post
Special to the NNPA from Atlanta Daily World
Originally posted 2/6/2006

ATLANTA (NNPA) – Coretta Scott King is being remembered as a woman of quiet strength, dignity and courage.

The widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died last week at the age of 78. The civil registry office at Rosa Rito Beach in Mexico listed the causes of death as cardio-respiratory failure, cerebral vascular illness and ovarian cancer.

''We appreciate the prayers and condolence from people across the country,'' her family said.

The ''first lady of human and civil rights'' died in her sleep at an alternative medicine clinic in Mexico, the family said.

She was in Mexico for treatment of ovarian cancer when she died. She had been recovering from a stroke and heart attack suffered last August.

King was remembered Tuesday, Jan. 31 not only as the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also as a woman of grace and a civil rights leader in her own right.

She has been ''a strong and graceful force encouraging women in public life,'' Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said in a news conference Jan. 31.

''Mrs. King has been an advocate for people who are poor and people who are left out,'' she said. ''I have looked to her, as many Atlantans have, for her strength of spirit, knowing that if she could continue to be hopeful, given the struggles in her own life, that we really don't have anything to complain about.

''It is important for us to see the possibilities of a beloved community where all come to the table together for each other's benefit, a vision shared by both Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr.,'' Franklin continued.

Former Atlanta Mayor and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young described King as ''strong if not stronger than he [her husband] was.''

Young said he knew she was seriously ill but did not believe death was imminent.

''I never thought she was on her way out,'' Young said. ''Both of her parents lived into their 90s, and she took care of them during the last 10 to 15 years of their lives. She took care of her brother and sister at one time and also raised four children.''

News of Mrs. King's death led to tributes to her across Atlanta.

She ''carried her grief with dignity and exerted her leadership with grace,'' said the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, convener of the Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda, who spoke at a news conference in Herndon Plaza on Auburn Avenue on Jan. 31.

''She became the sentimental symbol of the Civil Rights Movement,'' he said. ''We all are grateful for her life, ministry and witness. She was always a gracious lady who had not only physical beauty but also spiritual beauty.''

SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc. founder and chair Evelyn Gibson Lowery recalled her friendship with Mrs. King, particularly how she was instrumental in the founding of the organization.

''She was a role model for women all around the world,'' she said. ''It took a special kind of woman to stand with him [Dr. King].''

Mrs. King was a source of encouragement, said Southern Christian Leadership Conference President and CEO Charles Steele Jr.

''I would often talk to her alone, and not only was she articulate but also a good listener,'' Steele said.

Mrs. King shared words of encouragement with Steele at her husband's crypt at The King Center.

''She said, 'Keep up the good work; Martin would be proud of what you're doing,''' Steele said. ''She gave me the confidence and courage to go on.''

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