Gainesville leaders remember Mrs. King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit with three of their four children in their Atlanta, Ga, home, in this March 17, 1963 file photo. From left are: Martin Luther King III, 5, Dexter Scott, 2, and Yolanda Denise, 7. 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.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 11:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 11:23 a.m.

Coretta Scott King was a stronger force in the struggle for civil rights than people might realize, some of her Gainesville admirers said after learning of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow Tuesday at age 78.

"I'm not sure the movement could have succeeded without her," said the Rev. Thomas Wright, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and one of the pioneers of Gainesville's civil rights movement. "You hear the phrase that behind every great man is a woman. But I think you could say in front of every man there is a faithful woman ... I don't think Dr. King could have carried on without her."

Wright said he had been at rallies and speeches attended by Mrs. King, but never met her in person. In the early 1970s, he said, he wrote her a letter inviting her to speak during the opening of the Palmer King Day Care Center in Gainesville.

"She wrote back and said she would like to come but she couldn't afford it," Wright said. "And we couldn't afford to offer her any honorarium to speak. She was left with four small children and didn't have a lot of money."

Vivian Filer, who has been involved in a variety of activities inside and outside Gainesville's black community, called Mrs. King "powerful and empowering."

"She really was a driving force behind her husband by her willingness to be by his side 100 percent," she said. "She may have been in the shadows, but I think she was more at the forefront than we realize."

Filer said Mrs. King's greatest legacy was her untiring effort to establish a legacy for her husband the King Center in Atlanta.

"Through her dedication to keep that part alive, she was leaving a legacy of her own in that way," she said. "Her push to have the King Center gave us all a place to go."

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