Alberta Williams King

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Alberta Williams King
Born Alberta Christine Williams
(1904-09-13)September 13, 1904
Atlanta, Georgia
Died June 30, 1974(1974-06-30) (aged 69)
Atlanta, Georgia
Nationality American
Ethnicity Black
Citizenship American
Education Spelman Seminary
Hampton University
Spouse(s) Martin Luther King, Sr.
Children Christine King Farris
Martin Luther King, Jr. (deceased)
Alfred Daniel Williams King I (deceased)
Parents Reverend Adam Daniel Williams (1863-1931)
Jennie Celeste Parks Williams (1873-1941)

Alberta Christine Williams King (September 13, 1904 – June 30, 1974) was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mother and the wife of Martin Luther King, Sr. She played a significant role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her father, husband, and son had all pastored. She was shot and killed in the church six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Alberta Christine Williams was born on September 13, 1904, the only daughter of Jennie Celeste Parks and Reverend Adam McNeil Williams, who was then the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.[2] Williams attended high school at Spelman Seminary and obtained a teaching certificate at the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute (now Hampton University) in 1924.

Alberta Williams met Martin L. King (then known as Michael), whose sister Woodie was boarding with her parents, shortly before leaving for Hampton. After returning from college, she announced her engagement to King at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She worked for a short period as a teacher before their Thanksgiving Day 1926 wedding, then had to stop because female teachers were not allowed to work after they married.

Their first child, daughter Willie Christine King, was born on September 11, 1927. Martin Luther King Jr. followed on January 15, 1929 and Alfred Daniel Williams King I, named after his grandfather, arrived on July 30, 1930. During this period, Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, Sr.

Alberta King worked hard to instill self-respect into her three children. In an essay written at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr., who was always close to his mother, wrote that she "was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life."

Alberta King's mother Jennie Williams died on May 18, 1941 of a heart attack. The King family later moved to a larger yellow brick house three blocks away. Alberta King would serve as the organizer and president of the Ebenezer Women's Committee from 1950 to 1962. She was also a talented musician who served as the choir organist and director at Ebenezer, which may have contributed to the respect her son had for the Black arts.[3] By the end of this period, Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. were joint pastors of the church.

Family tragedies, 1968–1974[edit]

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by a gunman named James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. King was in Memphis to lead a march in support of the local sanitation workers' union. He was pronounced dead one hour later. Mrs. King, a source of strength after her son's assassination, faced fresh tragedy the next year when her younger son and last-born child, Alfred Daniel Williams King I, drowned in his own pool after having become the assistant pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Alberta King was shot and killed on June 30, 1974 by a 23-year-old black man named Marcus Wayne Chenault as she sat at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Chenault was a deranged gunman from Ohio who stated that he shot King because "all Christians are my enemies." Chenault claimed that he had decided that black ministers were a menace to black people, and that his original target had been Martin Luther King, Sr, but he had decided to shoot his wife instead because she was close to him. One of the church's deacons, Edward Boykin, was also killed in the attack, and a woman was wounded. Chenault was sentenced to death; although this sentence was upheld on appeal, he was later resentenced to life in prison, partially as a result of the King family's opposition to the death penalty. On August 3, 1995, he suffered a stroke, and was taken to a hospital, where he died of complications from his stroke on August 22.[4][5]

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