Coretta Scott King Dies at 78

ByABC News
January 31, 2006, 7:17 AM

Jan. 31, 2006 — -- Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She was 78.

Scott King was admitted to Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital on Aug. 16, 2005, suffering from a stroke that left her weakened on her right side, unable to walk, and barely able to speak.

Coretta Scott was born April 27, 1927, on a farm in Heiberger, Ala. Though the family owned the land, it was often a hardscrabble life. The young Coretta, her sister, Edythe, and brother, Obie, all had to pick cotton during the Depression to help the family make ends meet.

The Scott family was resourceful and blazed trails for blacks in its small corner of the world. Her father, Obediah, was the first black person in the area to own a truck, and he eventually opened a country store. Her mother, Bernice, hired a bus to drive all the black children to and from Lincoln High School -- nine miles from Heiberger.

An intelligent and hardworking student, Scott King played trumpet and piano, and graduated from Lincoln High at the top of her class in 1945. She followed her older sister to Antioch College in Ohio, where Edythe had been the first full-time black student to live on campus.

At Antioch, Scott King majored in music and education. When she graduated, she decided she wanted to pursue music instead of teaching. She received a scholarship to study violin and voice at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she met her future husband, Martin Luther King Jr., who was studying theology at Boston University.

The Kings were married in 1953, and the following year, they moved to Montgomery, Ala., where King began his ministry.

Scott King spent much of her life devoted to raising their four children -- Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter Scott and Bernice Albertine -- and to supporting her husband's work in the civil rights movement.

Scott King was often seen beside her husband during freedom marches, traveling abroad and giving speeches. Though she had essentially retired from her music career, she conceived of and performed in the Freedom Concerts, which combined the poetry, stories and music of the civil rights movement.