Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died Tuesday at the age 78.
Scott King, called the first lady of the Civil Rights Movement, died in her sleep at an alternative medicine clinic in Mexico, her family told the Associated Press. Arrangements were being made to fly the body to Atlanta, at the time AP reported the story.
Before her death, she was recovering from a serious stroke and heart attack she suffered last August.
King died at Santa Monica Health Institute in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, south of San Diego, said her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley to AP. She had gone to California to rest and be with family, said Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor and one of Martin Luther King’s top aides.
Coretta Scott King played a supportive role to her husband during the days of the civil rights movement; and after his assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she carried on his work while raising their four children.
“I’m more determined than ever that my husband’s dream will become a reality, the young widow said soon after his slaying,” reported AP.
In 1986 she succeeded in having her husband’s birthday observed as a national holiday after pushing politicians for more than a decade. In 1969 she founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and used it to confront hunger, unemployment, voting rights and racism, reported AP.
“She was strong if not stronger than he was,”said Young, commenting on how Coretta Scott King’s strength and determinism rivaled that of her husband.
Black college students had varied reactions to King’s death and her involvement in continuing her husband’s legacy.
“[Initially] I started thinking about everyone who died that was essential to the black movement and the civil rights era,” said Jonathan Pannia, a junior majoring in computer science at the University of New Orleans. Behind every great man is a great woman.”
“Martin Luther King [Jr.] wouldn’t have nearly as much success [had he not had] her behind him. There aren’t many people from their generation left that we’ve looked up to and who are role models for us,” Pannia said.
“Ever since Martin Luther King died, she did nothing for her husband’s legacy,” said Jamaal Clue, a senior majoring in molecular biology at Princeton University. “For example, I felt that the McDonald’s ‘I have a Dream’ commercial did nothing for his legacy.
“I felt that having his face on a cartoon was unacceptable. I just can’t respect a family that allows the legacy of a loved one to be demolished,” Clue said.
“I was initially shocked that she died; especially two weeks after his birthday,” said Taryn Tinson, a senior majoring in legal communication at Howard University. “I was sad, but now I’m happy that she’s not suffering anymore-now she’s with her husband.”
One student expressed dissatisfaction with how King’s death was covered in the news.
“When I was watching the news I found it unfair how the media focused more on her being the wife of MLK and what he did instead of focusing on her accomplishments and what she did as an individual,” said Lena Hale, a senior majoring in TV/Radio/Film at Howard University.
“I think she had a great legacy aside from what she did with her husband. They should have focused more on that. She did other things besides be a wife and mother,” Hale said.