Coretta Scott King 1927-2006
Culture Pick of the Week
Coretta Scott King, who died this morning from the effects of stroke and ovarian cancer, was a woman thrust onto the world stage through no effort of her own.
When she married the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1953 she no doubt planned to live a quiet life as the wife of a Baptist pastor. Her husband was clearly cut from special cloth from the start and she knew this and admired him for the clearness of his vision and the eloquence of his voice.
During her husband's rise to international fame and influence Coretta kept a quiet profile, raising their children and trying to make life as "normal" as possible for a family frequently the target of death threats. She knew that each day might well be her husband's last. There were so many who wanted him dead.
By God's grace, Dr. King survived until 1968 when a sniper's bullet killed him in Memphis, Tennessee.
Following a time of mourning, Coretta felt the pressure of the Civil Rights Movement to step up and carry on her husband's legacy. Her leadership, while effective and inspiring, was more than anything symbolic of the still considerable influence of her late husband.
It is doubtful that she ever again had any personal identity separate from that of being the widow of the late "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Even so, she carried this heavy burden with grace and dignity. Even though there were many who would have rejoiced if she had fallen in disgrace, she rarely even stumbled and remained standing tall and straight until the end.
She was, for all of America, a role model for being a wife, a mother, a widow and a public figure. She was all this and more; and not just for the African-American community; but for all Americans.
I only heard her speak in person once, back in the early 1980's when she spoke at a Colloquium at Utah State University. I remember her presentation as being sincere and passionate but not particularly uplifting or inspiring. Even then she seemed more like her husband's shadow (as in Peter Pan) than herself.
Coretta Scott King is the perfect example of the "what if" scenario. What if her husband had not moved to Montgomery just 3 months before Rosa Parks got arrested for not moving to the back of the bus? What if her husband had not risen to national prominence? What if her husband had not been assassinated?
I suspect that deep in her heart, gifted though she was, Coretta Scott King's personal dream would have been to simply be a Baptist pastor's wife, mother to her children and, perhaps, one day stepping out into some vocation of her own choosing when the children had grown. Instead of choosing her own destiny, however, destiny chose her.
It is to her credit and worthy of our gratitude that she took the mantle of her fallen husband and served us all so well until the end.
We now trust her spirit to the care and mercy of Almighty God in the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life.
"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"