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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

RIP the Queen of Kings!

Coretta Scott King, 78, DiesATLANTA (AP) - Coretta Scott King, who turned a life shattered by her husband's assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality, has died, former mayor Andrew Young told NBC Tuesday morning. She was 78. Young, who was a former civil rights activist and was close to the King family, broke the news during a phone call he made to the ``Today'' show. ``I was not expecting it. She has been ill for last few months. My first reaction was she was ready to cross on over.'' Asked how he found out about her death, Young said: ``I understand she was asleep last night and her daughter tried to wake her up.'' Efforts by The Associated Press to reach the family were unsuccessful. They did not immediately return phone calls, but flags at the King Center were lowered to half-staff Tuesday morning. King suffered a serious stroke and heart attack in 2005. She was a supportive lieutenant to her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., during the most tumultuous days of the American civil rights movement. She had married him in 1953. After her husband's assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she kept his dream alive while also raising their four children. She worked to keep his ideology of equality for all people at the forefront of the nation's agenda. She goaded and pulled for more than a decade to have her husband's birthday observed as a national holiday, then watched with pride in 1983 as President Reagan signed the bill into law. The first federal holiday was 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. ``I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality,'' King said soon after his slaying, a demonstration of the strong will that lay beneath the placid calm and dignity of her character. She was devoted to her children and considered them her first responsibility. But she 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. King saw to it that the center became deeply involved with the issues she said breed violence - hunger, unemployment, voting rights and racism. ``The center enables us to go out and struggle against the evils in our society,'' she often said. After her stroke, King missed the annual King holiday celebration in Atlanta in January 2006, but she did appear with her children at an awards dinner a couple of days earlier, smiling from her wheelchair but not speaking. The crowd gave her a standing ovation. At the same time, the King Center's board of directors was considering selling the site to the National Park Service to let the family focus less on grounds maintenance and more on King's message. But two of the four children were strongly against such a move. 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 working toward a Ph.D. at Boston University. ``She said she wanted me to meet a very promising young minister from Atlanta,'' King once said, adding with a laugh, ``I wasn't interested in meeting a young minister at that time.'' 01/31/06 08:00 © Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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