King Emerged as Protector of Her Husband's Legacy; after His Assassination, She Continued His Emphasis on Nonviolence

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"Reserved but strong," Coretta Scott King remained in the background during her famous husband's life but emerged after his death as the protector of his legacy, a Jacksonville friend said Tuesday.

During the summer of 1964, Janet Johnson's late husband, Earl Johnson, an attorney, helped Martin Luther King Jr. and his allies plan a civil rights protest in St. Augustine. During most of that time, Coretta King stayed away, tending to the children while the men would meet at the Johnsons' home to plan strategy.

"Usually it was just the men," said Johnson, a retired Jacksonville University professor. "She would come on special occasions, when things were peaceful."

"She was a lovely person," Johnson said. "She was soft, soft and gentle. Martin wasn't soft."

But despite her softness, she learned to be tough after her husband's assassination in 1968, founding the Martin Luther King. Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change, now known as the King Center, to carry on his legacy, Johnson said.

King, who died Tuesday at 78, placed particular emphasis on her late husband's legacy of nonviolence, said Alvin Brown, president of the Willie E. Gary Classic and a long-time family friend.

Brown invited King to serve in 2005 as speaker at the annual Willie E. Gary/Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon. Her talk that day focused on the message of nonviolence.

"People were just in awe of her grace and her vision of the future," Brown said. …


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