Alberta Williams King
|Alberta Williams King|
|Born||Alberta Christine Williams
September 13, 1904
|Died||June 30, 1974
|Children||Martin Luther King, Jr. (deceased)
Christine King Farris
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 all served as pastor. She was shot and killed in the church six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Life and career
Alberta Christine Williams was born on September 13, 1904, the only daughter of Reverend Adam McNeil Williams, who was then the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jenny Celeste Parks. 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 the marriage on Thanksgiving Day in 1926. As female teachers were then not allowed to work while they were married, she had to give up her job as a teacher.
Their first child, a daughter Willie Christine King, was born on September 11, 1927. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 while their third child Alfred Daniel Williams King I was born on July 30, 1930 and named after his Grandfather. 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. wrote that his mother "was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life." Martin Luther King Jr. was close to his mother throughout his 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 also serve as the organizer and president of the Ebenezer Women's Committee from 1950 to 1962. By the end of this period, Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. were joint pastors of the church.
Family tragedies, 1968–1974
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 was a source of strength after her son's assassination. The next year, her younger son, 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 decided to shoot his wife instead because she was close to him. During the shooting, the church's deacon, Edward Boykin, was also killed, 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.
- Ancestry of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr
- The Seattle Times: Living: Martin King 3rd: living up to society's expectations
- Saxon, Wolfgang (August 22, 1995). "M. W. Chenault, 44, Gunman Who Killed Mother of Dr. King". New York Times.
- The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume I: Called to Serve, January 1929-June 1951 (University of California Press, 1992) Introduction
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Warner Book, 1998) Chapter 1 edited by Clayborne Carson
- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Autobiography of Religious Development," 22 November 1950
- Daddy King and Me: Memories of the Forgotten Father of the Civil Rights Movement. Continental Shelf Publishing, 2009; Chapter Four, p. 69.
- Stanford University biography of Alberta King
- African American registry article on death of Alberta King
- Find a Grave article on Alberta King
- The King Center biography of Martin Luther King Jr