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“First Lady” of Civil Rights Movement Honored by Presidents, Thousands of Others


In Atlanta, Georgia, thousands of mourners gathered to pay their last respects to Coretta Scott King, the civil rights leader and widow of Nobel Prize winner Martin Luther King Junior. Deborah Block narrates.

The ceremony took place at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where Mrs. King's daughter Bernice is a minister.

Speaking at the service, President George Bush remembered Mrs. King as a kind and gentle woman who became one of the most admired Americans of our time. "She is rightly mourned, and she is deeply missed," he said, and he praised the work done by her and her late husband to win civil right for millions of Americans of color.

"Because this young mother and father were not intimidated, millions of children they would never meet are now living in a better, more welcoming country,” added Mr. Bush.

Former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton attended the service. Mr. Clinton had maintained close ties with the King family.

"The one thing I always admired about Dr. King and Coretta when I got to know her, is how they embraced causes that were almost surely lost," said Mr. Clinton.

But their primary cause was advanced by Mrs. King's work after her husband's assassination nearly 40 years ago. She became known as the "First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement."

The Reverend Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. King, called for a continuation of the Kings' work, and not just praise for it. "How marvelous: presidents and governors come to mourn and praise, but in the morning, will words become deeds that match needs? Millions without health care, poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor?"

Coretta Scott King died on January 30 at the age of 78. She had suffered a stroke and ovarian cancer.

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