Friday, January 06, 2006

Do you know this? Do you remember this?

Alberta Christine Williams King (September 13, 1903 – June 30, 1974) was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mother and the wife of Martin Luther King, Sr. She played a significant role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church where both her husband and her son preached. King was shot dead in the church six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Early Life 1904-1926

She was born Alberta Christine Williams, the only daughter of A.D. Williams, who was then the head of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia and Jennie Williams. Williams attended high school at Spelman Seminary and obtained a degree in teaching certificate at the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute in 1924.

Alberta Williams met Michael King whose sister Woodie was boarding with her parents shortly before leaving for Hampton. After returning from college, she announced her engagement to King at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She worked for a short period as a teacher before the marriage on Thanksgiving Day in 1926. As women teachers were then not allowed to work while they were married, she had to give up her job as a teacher.

Family and Church Life 1926-1968

After the wedding, the Kings moved in with her parents. Their first child, a daughter Willie Christine, was born on 11 September 1927. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on 15 January 1929 while their third child Albert Daniel Williams King was born on 30 July 1930 and named after her father. During this period, Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King Sr.

Her father died on 21 March 1931 and Martin Luther King Sr. became the pastor at the Ebenezer Church. Alberta King became the choir director and organist. This position was a critical position in an African American church where gospel music was an integral part of proceedings. Her skills as a choir director helped to keep and recruit members to the church and soon received recognition throughout Georgia. From the age of 4, Martin Luther King Jr. would sing at the Ebenezer Church and at other musical gatherings with Alberta accompanying him on the organ. The Ebenezer Church choir performed at the premiere of Gone with the Wind in 1939 and Alberta King also performed at meetings of the National Baptist Convention.

Alberta King worked hard to instil self-respect into her three children. In an essay written at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that his mother was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life. Martin Luther King Jr. was close to his mother throughout his life.

Alberta King's mother Jennie Williams died on 18 May 1941 of a heart attack and her oldest son was so upset that he jumped from the second floor of the house. The Kings later moved to a larger yellow brick house three blocks away. Alberta King would also serve as the organiser and president of the Ebenezer Women's Committee between 1950 and 1962. By the end of this period, Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. were joint pastors of the church.

Family Tragedies 1968-1974

Martin Luther King was assassinated by escaped convict James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while leading a march in Memphis in support of the local sanitation workers union and was pronounced dead several hours later. Alberta King was a source of strength after her son's assassination.

Her other son Albert Daniel King died in an accident at his home in Atlanta after having become the assistant pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She herself was shot and killed on June 30, 1974 by a deranged gunman Marcus Chenault as she sat at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Chenault was a 21-year-old youth from Ohio who stated that he shot her because "all Christians are my enemies."


* The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume I: Called to Serve, January 1929-June 1951, (University of California Press, 1992) Introduction

* The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Warner Book, 1998) Chapter 1 edited by Clayborne Carson

* Martin Luther King, Jr., "Autobiography of Religious Development," 22 November 1950

External References

* Stanford University biography of Alberta King

* African American registry article on death of Alberta King

* Find a Grave article on Alberta King

* The King Centre biography of Martin Luther King Jr

Retrieved from ""

Category: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here is the original article on Mrs. King's death by Claude Lewis

Claude Lewis, who traveled throughout the South with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights entourage as a reporter for Newsweek Magazine and later the New York Herald Tribune, is a columnist with the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists. In addition, he has written six books, numerous magazine articles and several television specials. Lewis is also a professor in the Honors Program at Villanova University. He lives in Bushkill with his wife, Beverly, a registered nurse.

And From the King Center in Atlanta.

"In recent years, events in the lives of the King family have continued to reflect the tragedy and the triumph so uniquely combined in Dr. King’s own life and is intrinsic, perhaps, in the lives of all dedicated persons the world over.
Just a little more than a year after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, his younger brother, Alfred Daniel, died in a tragic accident at his home in Atlanta. Funeral services were held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 24, 1969, where Alfred Daniel had served as co-pastor.

On Sunday, June 30, 1974, Mrs. Alberta Williams King, the mother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed as she sat at the organ in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Again, through an act of violence, there ended a life that was totally nonviolent, a life that was thoroughly Christian, a life that reflected love for all persons and unselfish service to humankind. Again, the indomitable faith of the King family was put to the test, and again love prevailed amid the greatest sadness. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., bereft by the violent deaths of his two sons and now by the equally tragic death of his devoted wife, could still say – and did say – at her funeral service on July 3, “I cannot hate any man.”

In 1975, the year following his wife’s death, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. resigned his forty-four year pastorate at Ebenezer, passing on the active leadership of the church to the young and inspired Dr. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr. At his retirement banquet on August 1, 1975, however, “Daddy King” made it clear – as if anyone could have thought otherwise – that his resignation did not mean his retirement from the full and active life that has described his long career. This “Giant of a Man,” as he was acclaimed on that memorable evening, continued to work and to speak and to use the gifts with which the Lord had endowed him in the loving service of others. Among the Rev. King, Sr.’s many accomplishments is the completion of his one luxury, the publication of his autobiography, Daddy King. Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. died on November 11, 1984 of a heart attack at Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He was 84 years of age. Funeral services were held on November 14, 1984."


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