On the eve of Black History Month, Coretta Scott King, wife of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., has passed away. She died Tuesday (Jan. 31) at the age of 78.
Andrew Jackson Young, Jr., former mayor of Atlanta, announced King’s death early Tuesday morning. King had been sick since August when she suffered a stroke and heart attack.
"She’ll be remembered as a strong woman whose grace and dignity held up the image of her husband as a man of peace, of racial justice, of fairness," said the Rev. Joseph Lowery to The New York Times. He co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. King and then served as its president for 20 years.
When King’s husband died in 1963, after being shot on the balcony of a Memphis motel, she continued his fight against racial inequality here and abroad. Later that year, Coretta took her husband’s place as leader of the Poor People’s March in Washington, D.C. She was advocate for the removal of apartheid in South Africa and spoke out against poverty in Latin America.
In 1968, she built the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. The center has archives containing more than 2,000 King speeches and is built around the King crypt and its eternal flame. King was last seen in public at a fundraiser on what would have been her husband’s 77th birthday earlier this month, according MSNBC.com.
Coretta Scott King is survived by her four children, Martin Luther III, Yolanda, Dexter and Bernice.