Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who devoted herself to her husband’s legacy for human rights and racial equality has died at age 78, the King family announced this morning.
“We appreciate the prayers and condolences from people around the country,” the family said in a statement. The family said she died overnight but did not indicate where, according to the Associated Press.
Flags at the King Center in Atlanta were lowered to half-staff on Tuesday morning.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference together with the Rev. King, remembered the suffering of Scott King in her husband’s absence.
"She wore her grief with dignity," said Lowery, according to CNN. "She moved quietly but forcefully into the fray. She stood for peace in the midst of turmoil."
Lowery also remembered Scott King not as a civil rights figure "in the truest sense" but "because of what she came to represent," according to the New York Times.
"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."
The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a family friend, described her as a "matriarch of the movement, a patriot of all that America stands for," in an interview with CNN affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Scott King married the Rev. King in 1953 and had been supportive of his civil rights struggle. After he was assassinated on Apr. 4, 1968, she continued to remember his legacy and raised the couple’s four children.
"I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality," King said soon after he was killed.
To keep her husband’s name and the struggle he represented alive, she fought for years to make his birthday a national holiday.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law and the first federal King Holiday was celebrated in 1986.