Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. Dies
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ATLANTA (AP) -- Yolanda King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest child who pursued her father’s dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking, has died. She was 51.
King died late Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. The family did not know the cause of death, but relatives think it might have been a heart problem, he said.
“She was an actress, author, producer, advocate for peace and nonviolence, who was known and loved for her motivational and inspirational contributions to society,” the King family said in a statement.
Born on Nov. 17, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., Yolanda Denise King was just an infant when her home was bombed amid the turbulent civil rights era.
She became an actress, ran a production company and appeared in numerous films, including “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and as Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries “King.”
“Yolanda was lovely. She wore the mantle of princess, and she wore it with dignity and charm,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, One of her father’s close aides in the civil rights movement. “She was a warm and gentle person and was thoroughly committed to the movement and found her own means of expressing that commitment through drama.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he expressed his condolences to her brother Martin Luther King III on Wednesday. Sharpton said Yolanda King was a “torch bearer for her parents and a committed activist in her own right.”
“Yolanda never wavered from a commitment to nonviolent social change and justice for all,” he said. “She was the first daughter of the civil rights movement and never shamed her parents or her co-activists.”
Yolanda King founded and led Higher Ground Productions, billed as a “gateway for inner peace, unity and global transformation.” On her company’s Web site, she described her mission as encouraging personal growth and positive social change.
She was also an author and a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- which her father co-founded in 1957 -- and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The flag at The King Center, where she was a board member, flew at half-staff on Wednesday.
Yolanda King was the most visible and outspoken among the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s four children during this year’s Martin Luther King Day in January, the first since the death of their mother, Coretta Scott King.
At her father’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, she performed a series of solo skits that told stories including a girl’s first ride on a desegregated bus and a college student’s recollection of the 1963 desegregation of Birmingham, Ala.
She also urged the audience to be a force for peace and love, and to use the King holiday each year to ask tough questions about their own beliefs about prejudice.
“We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other,” she said.
When asked by The Associated Press at that event how she was dealing with the loss of her mother, she responded: “I connected with her spirit so strongly. I am in direct contact with her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so much strength.”
Survivors include her sister, the Rev. Bernice A. King, and brothers Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King.
Funeral arrangements would be announced later, the family said in a brief statement.