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Coretta Scott King

   Coretta Scott King, who has died at the age of 78, grew up on a farm in segregated Alabama. She had to walk five miles to a one-room schoolhouse while white kids rode a bus to a closer school. She led an extraordinary life that helped transform the world of her birth. She became "our Jackie Kennedy," in the phrase of Juan Williams this morning on NPR. Among her many accomplishments, she played the lead role in establishing Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday.

    [I suspect many younger Americans -- I'm thinking of my kids -- don't grasp how recently the Deep South was segregated, and how there are countless African Americans who know first-hand, not just from history books, what it meant to be denied the most basic civil rights. I'm always saying, "It wasn't so long ago!" Here's a book to add to your reading list: "Walking With the Wind," by John Lewis, who also grew up on an Alabama farm and marched for civil rights with Dr. King before becoming a congressman.]

   There's a full bio of Mrs. King on the web site of the King Center in Atlanta, which she founded in 1968. Excerpt:

    "Mrs. King has received honorary doctorates from over 60 colleges and universities; has authored three books and a nationally-syndicated column; and has served on, and helped found, dozens of organizations, including the Black Leadership Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation, and the Black Leadership Roundtable. She has dialogued with heads of state, including prime ministers and presidents; and she has put in time on picket lines with welfare rights mothers. She has met with great spiritual leaders, including Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, Dorothy Day, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. She has witnessed the historic handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yassir Arafat at the signing of the Middle East Peace Accords. She has stood with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg when he became South Africa's first democratically-elected president. A woman of wisdom, compassion and vision, Coretta Scott King has tried to make ours a better world and, in the process, has made history."

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 31, 2006; 9:08 AM ET
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