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Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006)

Coretta Scott was born in Marion, Alabama. She met her husband Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. while in college. Initially, Scott was interested in pursuing a career in music, but as she fell deeper in love with King, she realized that wouldn’t be feasible. Scott and King married in 1953 and had four children.

Alongside her husband, Scott was an active advocate for the equality of African-Americans and led the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. In fact, Scott has been called the “First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement.” King’s 1968 assassination did not dampen the struggle nor her involvement. She simply took on the full leadership role and became active in the Women’s Movement and the recent LGBT rights Movement. Scott founded the King Center and sought to make King’s birthday a national holiday. In 1983, Scott’s fight for MLK day came to fruition under President Ronald Reagan. As a result, Scott became friends with numerous presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy.

In August 2005, Scott suffered a stroke and was left paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. In January 2006, Scott died of respiratory failure due to complications from ovarian cancer. She was 78 years old. Her funeral was attended by four of the five living U.S. presidents (at the time) and another 10,000 people. She was temporarily buried on the grounds of the King Center before she was permanently interred next to her late husband. She was the first African-American to lie in the Georgia State Capitol upon her death. In 2009, Scott was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.

Scott and King’s oldest daughter Yolanda outlived her mother by a mere 16 months, succumbing to complications related to a chronic heart condition on May 15, 2007. Yolanda was only 51 years old.