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Coretta Scott King Honored as Civil Rights Champion

Coretta Scott King accompanies her husband the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize, December 1964.
AFP/Getty Images
Coretta Scott King accompanies her husband the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize, December 1964.

Thousands gathered Tuesday at Atlanta's largest African American church to pay their respects to civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King.

Mrs. King is being honored as a champion of human rights and for a life dedicated to peace and justice. An estimated 10,000 people, including four U.S. presidents, were expected to attend the funeral at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where King's daughter Bernice is a minister.

"The dream is still alive," said Bishop Eddie Long, leader of the suburban church in Lithonia, Ga.

"We are all in a better place, doing better things, doors have been opened," he said.

The widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Mrs. King died Jan. 30 at the age 78 after battling ovarian cancer and the effects of a stroke.

Coretta Scott was studying voice at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music and planning on a singing career when she met her future husband. They married in 1953 and had four children: Yolanda Denise, Martin III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice Albertine.

After her husband's assassination in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, she continued his work for social justice and devoted her life to his legacy, establishing the King Center in Atlanta and working for decades for a federal holiday in his honor.

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.

In 1969, she 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 that 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.

In recent years, King spoke out against racial profiling, mandatory minimum sentences and attacks on affirmative action.

She became increasingly critical of businesses such as film and television companies, video arcades, gun manufacturers and toy makers she accused of promoting violence. She called for regulation of their advertising.

"In this country, we vigorously regulate the sale of medicine and severely limit the advertising of cigarettes because of their effect on human health," she said Jan. 15, 1994, the 65th anniversary of her husband's birth. "But we allow virtually anyone in America to buy a gun and virtually everyone in the nation to see graphic violence."

King received numerous honors for herself and traveled around the world in the process.

Due to poor health, King missed the annual King holiday celebration in Atlanta earlier this month, 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.

Gathered from NPR reports, Associated Press.

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