All Hail the Queen: Remembering Coretta Scott King

by Lisa Donovan

The first time I heard her name, I was a scrawny seven year old army brat knee deep in red Georgia clay…. I can remember that summer, days before I began second grade. The wind still blew in the summertime in 1984 - there always seemed to be a breeze, even in south georgia in the middle of august… and I can still hear my mom’s voice calling for me across the park where I dangled upside down from metal monkey bars, my blonde hair floating underneath as the red sky glowed a quiet sunset that was always my reminder to head home.

I can remember, just as vividly, walking into Mrs. Stenson’s second grade classroom. She had the usual posters of Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kennedy and kitty cats tangled up in yarn with the quote “hang in there!” smattered here and there throughout the room. And then she had a wall full of people that I had never seen before. Sojournor Truth, Harriet Tubman, Jesse Jackson and the beautiful and steadfast Coretta Scott King, poised on stage and singing. And then, aside from that iconic picture that she had in a golden frame on the wall, she had this picture in an intimate frame,that kind of frame you would put a picture of your mother in, on her desk:

Coretta Scott King

Within that year, I believe I learned more about life, reality and the kind of person that I hoped to become, - the kind of person that I hope I have - at least mostly - become. We all know her story and the life she led in the wake of tragedy - that alone is worthy of pedestal placement. But there was something else - maybe perhaps that next to a man who seemed so mighty and capable of escaping human charactersitics like hate and violence, she held her own ground and, once he was gone, she kept showing us the way toward peace. I dunno, I have always found her remarkable for something other than the obvious reasons though - maybe it is not for words, and maybe it is not just me. We probably all feel that way about her - and, truly, we all should.

As much as I tried, I couldn’t stop myself from crying at the dinner table the evening of her death. We always listen to NPR at dinner time and they had a poignant piece in which you could hear her speaking in Memphis after her husband’s death. She spoke with honor and in a voice that only she could muster after having had such a man taken from her family. I couldn’t hide it from my son, a fifty eight year old trapped in a five year old’s body - he notices everything. He brushed his hands together as if he had been working in the coal mine all day and was shaking the soot off and said “whelp, I guess she was the last wise one we’ll see for awhile”. Several things hit me, one being utter confusion about how someone as scatterbrained as me has had such a well put together, perplexing and thoughtful child, the other things had something to do with the passing of time and the remarkableness of people who are great and even those that are not so “great” within that time. Without getting too sentimental (perhaps it is too late) I will just say that she was a great lady that made me realize what I am capable of, both within myself and within my community. that’s all. I will miss knowing that one of our last “wise ones”, as my son put it, is no longer around.

Visit NPR to hear the 1968 speech in Memphis and to read other interesting facts about Mrs. Scott King.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2006 at 9:22 pm and is filed under Lifestyles, Grief and Loss, Faith. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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