February 13, 2006
Emory memorial pays tribute to King
BY Alfred Charles
Mourners in Atlanta and across the nation have mourned the loss of Coretta Scott King since her death Jan. 30.
During a memorial gathering Feb. 6 in Cannon Chapel,
faculty, staff and students took time out to recall the life of the
as the matriarch of the civil rights movement.
She was extremely gentle and extremely generous,” said
Noel Erskine, associate professor of theology and ethics. King, the
widow of Martin Luther King Jr., died Jan. 30 at an alternative health
care center in Mexico. Doctors have said that she suffered from advanced ovarian
cancer, a disease that she was battling in addition to her ongoing recovery
from a recent stroke
and heart attack.
Since the death of King, 78, there has been an outpouring
of emotion, grief and sorrow across the city, nation and on Emory’s
The King family’s ties to Emory are strong and
deep. The Kings’ youngest daughter, Bernice, received
her law and divinity degrees from Emory.
And as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project,
documents produced by the late civil rights leader were published,
in 1992, by Emory
staffers as part of a comprehensive effort to shed light on his life.
Perhaps the strongest association between the Kings
and Emory occurred in 1979 and 1980 when Coretta King lectured to
Emory students during
Erskine’s course, “The Theology of Martin Luther King,” about
the religious impact her husband’s
teaching had on the nation and the world.
She didn’t differentiate his dream from her
dream,” Erskine said. “She saw King’s
dream as our dream.”
Years after King’s stint on campus, Erskine published
a book, King Among the Theologians, which was rooted in Coretta’s
Although King had always taken an active public role
since her husband’s
assassination in 1968, she rarely gave interviews or spoke to news reporters.
To much of the public, she was an enigmatic figure who valued her privacy.
When she spent time on the Emory campus, Erskine recalls
a woman who was open, giving and warm hearted. He said she had regular
meetings with other
members and was “extraordinary with her time.”
She was very relaxed with the students,” he
said. “We got
to see the human side of her.”
Erskine shared his memories of King during the memorial
tribute to her, which was held on a damp, chilly Monday night. About
which included prayer, scripture and song.
Erskine told the group that King would spend much of
the afternoon on campus during the lectures. Her aim was to provide
of her husband, who steered the civil rights bus through a turbulent
Erskine recalled King telling Emory students during
her lectures that there were only two stops on the road to freedom:
She said, ‘Love your enemies and bless those
that curse you,’” Erskine