Honoring the Life and Accomplishments of Mrs. Coretta Scott King

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Mr. MEEHAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in honor of Coretta Scott King, wife of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a guiding force of the modern civil rights movement in her own right.

Just seventeen days ago we honored the birthday of her husband and celebrated January 16th as a national holiday in his honor. It would be too easy to remember Mrs. King simply as the wife of Dr. King, one of this country's great 20th century leaders. To do this would be a disservice to the memory of a champion of civil and equal rights in her own right.

Coretta Scott King began her long career of civic engagement as an undergraduate at Antioch College where she joined the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

After graduating from Antioch with a B.A. in music and education, Coretta Scott received a scholarship to study concert singing at the New England Conservatory of Music in my home state of Massachusetts. While there she met her future husband, Martin Luther King Jr.

After receiving her degree from the Conservatory, she and Dr. King moved to Montgomery, Alabama. It was here that she and her husband became central figures in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ultimately, the civil rights movement.

Following the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. and Mrs. King traveled tirelessly to ensure that the civil rights movement continued to grow. Mrs. King's talent and education in the arts led her to conceive of and perform a series of Freedom Concerts which incorporated poetry, narration, and music to tell the story of the larger movement for equal rights. These concerts were vital in the fundraising efforts for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization her husband headed.

Mrs. King was not deterred by her husband's assassination, and if anything this tragic event strengthened her resolve in their shared struggle. In 1974, she established the Full Employment Action Council, a diverse coalition of more than 100 religious, labor, civil, and women's rights groups dedicated to economic justice through equal opportunity.

In 1983, Coretta Scott King marked the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington with another march on the Capitol featuring hundreds of organizations called the "Coalition of Conscience." At the time it was the largest demonstration in Washington's history.

Mrs. King led the movement to have her husband's birthday, January 15th, established as a federal holiday and I am happy to say that Congress and the President acted on the merit of Coretta Scott King's wish and established Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday in 1986.

While we are truly saddened at her passing, we are given pause to contemplate the impact she made during her lifetime on our lives and those of future generations. The freedoms all Americans enjoy today are due in no small part to her participation in the struggle for civil rights and equality.

Mr. Speaker, let us celebrate the achievements of this remarkable woman's lifetime and work to ensure that her legacy endures long after her passing.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).