Coretta Scott King Dies at 78

Coretta Scott King has died. AP reports, “Coretta Scott King, who turned a life shattered by her husband’s assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality, has died, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young said Tuesday morning. She was 78.”

That’s a pretty good summary of her legacy. She was a revered figure–as Juan Williams put it on NPR, the “queen” of the civil rights movement–solely for the fact that she was Dr. King’s widow. She has spent the last several decades doggedly fighting against any attempt to portray King as anything but a Christ-like figure and has succeeded in elevating him to iconic status beyond his actual role in gaining equality for black Americans.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jay says:

    She made a good life for herself off of copyright wealth, stifling history, which can’t have hurt the effort to redirect said history.

    Kind of a sad legacy when the milking and iron control of the copyrights was the first thing her death made me think of.

  2. James Joyner says:


    King was an eloquent speaker and a superb strategist. He was an icon in the senses of “an important and enduring symbol” and “one who is the object of great attention and devotion” but not in the classic sense “a representation or picture of a sacred or sanctified Christian personage.”

    His stature–like Abraham Lincoln’s and that of both John and Robert Kennedy–was elevated by his assassination.

    We currently have a federal holiday for two men: Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King, Jr. I would say that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, and dozens of other figures were more significant in their impact on American history than MLK.

  3. Eddie Thomas says:

    That’s a little rough, James. MLK is a fine icon for the country to have. I think his widow deserves more respect than this.