Alabama Women's Hall of Fame

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott was born in North Perry, Alabama, and she was raised in Perry County on the farm of her parents, Bernice McMurry Scott and Obadiah Scott. At an early age she experienced the injustices of segregation in education and public facilities. She walked five miles a day to attend the one-room elementary school at Heiberger, a crossroads village in Perry County, while white students rode buses to an all-white school closer by. Yet, she was valedictorian of her graduating class at Lincoln High School in Marion, Alabama and received a scholarship to Antioch College in Ohio, from which she graduated with an A.B. in elementary education and music. She then won a scholarship to study at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, from which she received her Mus. B. degree in education with a major in voice and minor in violin in 1954.

In Boston she met a young Ph.D (theology) student, Martin Luther King, Jr. They were married on June 18,1953, in a ceremony conducted by the groom's father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. in a ceremony on the Scott's front lawn near Marion, Alabama. The Kings moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in September 1954, where her husband had accepted the Pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. When Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to yield her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white passenger, the black citizens of Montgomery organized in support of Mrs. Parks. They chose Dr. King to lead them in a protest of the city's buses. The protest drew the attention of the world to the injustice of racial segregation, giving rise to the American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. and Mrs. King's courageous leadership example inspired the citizens, black and white, to defy the segregation laws throughout the south.

In the 1960s, as Dr. King embraced the causes of international peace and economic justice, Mrs. King became in demand as a public speaker. She became the first woman to deliver the Class Day address at Harvard, and the first woman to preach a statutory service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

After her husband was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, Mrs. King envisioned and led the effort to create The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non violent Social Change as a living memorial to her husband's life and dream. In 1982, The King Center opened to the public in Atlanta as part of a 23-acre national historic site that also includes Dr. King's birthplace and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Mrs. King's travels for the cause of justice and human rights took her throughout the world on goodwill missions. In 1983, she marked the 20th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington by organizing and leading the largest demonstration the capital city had seen up to that time.

Mrs. King led the successful campaign to establish Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday, and his birthday is now marked by annual celebrations in over 100 countries. She remains a role model for all women who strive to face adversity with courage and dedication to combat social injustice with informed action.

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Alabama Women's Hall of Fame