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Remembering Coretta Scott King

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. President, with the passing of Coretta Scott King, we have lost the First Lady of America's civil rights movement. She and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helped awaken the Nation to a dream of an America where each person, to use Dr. King's beautifully profound formulation, is judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. Ms. King continued to sustain the dream after her husband's death. We can take comfort in the hope that, 38 years after his tragic death, this couple has been reunited at last.

Because of Coretta Scott King, Dr. King's legacy is still alive. Her tireless efforts led to the establishment of Martin Luther King Day on the third Monday of January every year beginning in 1986 to mark Dr. King birthday.

Because of Ms. King, Americans everywhere can explore Dr. King life and vision through the King Center in Atlanta. Established in 1968, the King Center attracts over 650,000 visitors annually.

Born in poverty in Heiberger, AL, in 1927, Coretta Scott grew up in the midst of segregation, walking to a one-room schoolhouse every day as a school bus full of white children passed her by. But these harsh surroundings did not extinguish her spirit.

As a girl, she enjoyed singing and had the talent to attend Boston's New England Conservatory of Music to train as a classical singer. She would later lend her gift to the civil rights cause, singing at over 30 Freedom Concerts to raise money for the movement.

It was while in Boston, in February, 1952, that Coretta first met a 23-year-old Martin Luther King, who was pursuing his doctorate in theology at Boston University. As a lonely southerner in a northern town, he asked a mutual friend if she knew any nice young ladies he could meet. She mentioned the name Coretta Scott, and described her as ``pretty and intelligent.''

The young King persuaded the friend to give him Ms. Scott's number and asked if she'd put in a good word for him. Soon, he called for a date. Displaying a bit of verbal flair, he said, ``You know, every Napoleon has his Waterloo. I'm like Napoleon at Waterloo before your charms.''

``Why, that's absurd. You haven't seen me yet,'' Coretta replied.

Undeterred, he finally convinced her to let me take her out for lunch between classes. ``I have a green Chevy that usually takes 10 minutes to make the trip from Boston University,'' he told her. ``But tomorrow, I'll do it in 7.''

That was 1952. They were married in 1953.

Ms. King once said, ``I was married to the man whom I loved, but I was also married to the movement.'' Her entire life was intertwined with the fight to stamp out the injustices of racism and inequality.

After her husband's life was tragically cut short, Ms. King persevered, raising four young children on her own. It must have been a lonely struggle ..... but her dignity and grace inspired a nation.

A few days ago, Ms. King became the first African-American to lie in honor in the Georgia State Capitol rotunda. Today she will be laid to rest alongside her husband, at the King Center in Atlanta, and for all time they will be reunited.

Martin Luther King once said of his wife, ``I think on many points, she educated me.'' Now, at the end of her celebrated life, many of us feel the same way. Dr. and Mrs. King helped educate America by forcing it to look itself in the mirror, face up to its failings, and recommit itself to its founding ideals.

So today, Coretta Scott King will be laid to rest in her beloved Georgia, next to the husband she lost 38 years ago. As the whole Nation reflects today on her incalculable contributions to human progress, I am reminded of Dr. King's own simple wish:

I don't know how long I'll live, and I'm not concerned about that--but I hope I can live so well that the preacher can get up and say, ``He was faithful.'' That's all, that's enough. That's the sermon I'd like to hear: ``Well done my good and faithful servant.''

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