Congressman Conyers Soon to Speak at Coretta Scott King Funeral
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. is in Lithonia, Georgia for Coretta Scott King's funeral. The Congressman, who worked with Mrs. King to author the bill making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, will be honoring her life's work with following remarks.
Today we mourn the passing of a dignified and peaceful woman who should be remembered as an equal partner in the struggle for civil rights. For more than forty years, she continued the pursuit of her husband's legacy of justice and equality - proving that she was an activist in her own right. For that, our nation owes her its most profound gratitude.
I first met Coretta when I traveled South during the civil rights movement as a lawyer. What many people may not realize is that Martin did not bring her to the Movement. She was already there. As a child of the South, she recognized the injustices of segregation and as a college student, began her own work to obtain equality.
We all recognize Coretta as a vibrant and dedicated partner to Dr. King. When he insisted that the Civil Rights Movement begin in the deep South, where racial injustice permeated every aspect of its society, she could have joined those who tried to dissuade him. Coretta could have made a strong case for standing on the sidelines when he was called to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott with Mrs. Rosa Parks. After all, King was working on his doctorate, they had just started a family, and there was a great deal of danger involved in this struggle. However, she recognized the fact that the importance of this struggle transcended personal interest and people would have to step out on faith and do the right thing.
As Martin Luther King grew in the struggle, Mrs. King grew along with him. When he traveled to India in 1959 on a pilgrimage to disciples and sites associated with Gandhi, Mrs. King was by his side. She would travel around the country, giving speeches, singing, and leading marches. Coretta was not trying to make headlines or gain personal recognition, but she quietly and eloquently acted as a leader in the Movement.
Following Dr. King's assassination, Coretta continued to advance their shared vision of a free and equal America. She honored her husband's legacy by founding the King Center in 1968, the largest repository of King's speeches, writings, and other works. Coretta devoted her life to advancing racial and economic justice and the recognition of the rights of women, children, the poor, the homeless, and all those disenfranchised. Most notably, this woman stood for equality and peace - the virtues to which her husband dedicated his life.
With Coretta's approval, four days after Martin's death on April 4, 1968, I introduced a bill to name a federal holiday in his honor, and in 1969, I was proud to join her at the King Center in Atlanta to kick off the campaign for a King holiday. A stalwart leader, she orchestrated a national grassroots movement that urged passage of this legislation and would come to Congress in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983 to testify before Congress and urge support of the King Holiday, which was passed into law in 1986.
Today, as we mourn her loss, we also pledge to continue the King legacy just as Coretta has done for the last 38 years. Their contributions impacted millions during their lifetimes; it is our challenge to ensure that their legacies continue to compel justice and peace, and the very best that this country can be.