Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left behind legacy of selflessness and equality that is still celebrated across the United States today. Besides George Washington, Dr. King is the only other American whose birthday is a national holiday. But this legendary figure was also a very real man — and nobody knew that better than his wife. And Coretta Scott King is a woman with a historic legacy all her own.
Behind every great man...
Coretta knew all about her husband's talent and vision, and she was painfully aware of his flaws. And it was partly due to the work she did after King's death that the man remains an American icon today. Strangely enough, though, Coretta's introduction to the civil rights hero was a little bit awkward.
Looking for love
As a grad student at Boston University in the 1950s, King shone in the classroom — but he was struggling in a different area of his life. He wasn't connecting with any of the women at BU, so his friend Mary Powell set him up with a smart and beautiful young woman named Coretta Scott. The then-strangers first chatted over the phone.
Joining as equals
The pair fell for each other after just a few dates. Martin was a talented preacher and activist while Coretta was a powerful mezzo-soprano with dreams of being a concert singer. In 1953, then, Coretta Scott became Coretta Scott King. But to emphasize her independence, the bride removed some terms from the traditional wedding vows. "Obey" and "submitting to one's husband" were altered, for instance.
It soon became apparent that Coretta was the loyal partner Dr. King needed the most. After already being involved in her college's NAACP chapter, Coretta later found herself at the forefront of the civil rights movement — and didn't back down. "I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself, something of profound historic importance," Coretta told the Academy of Achievement in 2004.