Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Alberta Christine Williams King, the mother of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On June 30, 1974, she became the victim of an assassin’s bullet subsequent to playing “The Lord’s Prayer” for the Sunday service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
A matriarchal figure, Mrs. King was a soft-spoken, kind, serene person who instilled in her children a sense of love and respect for their fellow man. Dr. King wrote of her as follows: “My mother, Alberta Williams King, has been behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life. She is a very devout person with a deep commitment to the Christian faith.” ( Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson). At the time of her demise, Time stated (July 15, 1974), “Death brought Alberta Christine Williams King more public attention than she ever received in her lifetime.”
In 1974, I composed a work for a narrator and orchestra titled “Ode to a Martyred Mother,” in memory of Mrs. King. It is my hope that others will explore avenues of intellectual inquiry regarding Mrs. King’s life and that the contributions of this unsung heroine will come to the forefront as all people strive for the equality she espoused. May future generations develop an interest in keeping Mrs. King’s legacy alive through study, research, creative endeavors and publications.
Ronald H. High