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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Coretta Scott King Funeral
Aired February 7, 2006 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: "In the darkest moments she always brought the light of hope" -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his beloved wife and soul mate, his help mate, confidante and successor in the cause of human rights, Coretta Scott King. We're about to witness an extraordinary outpouring of love and admiration for a woman who lived to see, to inspire much of the change her husband only dreamed about. Much, by no means all.
And while Dr. King went to his grave with modest fanfare from the people in power, no fewer than four U.S. presidents have come to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church just outside Atlanta to honor Mrs. King. It's the final farewell after days of viewings and tributes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Every time I sat with you, whether she spoke or not, I came away wiser, knowing more about how to live and what it means to be a real woman. I felt blessed always to be in her presence.
She leaves us all a better America than the America of her childhood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Oprah spoke and thousands of people paid their respects at historic Ebenezer Baptist in downtown Atlanta. But today's event was moved to suburban New Birth, where the Kings' daughter Bernice is minister, because it can seat 10,000 people as well.
CNN's Tony Harris is there.
Tony, you have been there all morning. What do you think has been the most memorable moment to this point?
TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boy, let me take just a moment to think about that. I would have to say just off the top of my head it's just the number of people, Kyra, the number of people who, while, even as we speak, continue to file in to this church.
This is New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Just to give you a bit of a scene setting, it is in Lithonia, Georgia, which is about -- as you know, Kyra -- about, oh, 15, 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta on Interstate 20 east of the city. And this is one of those megachurches.
The main sanctuary seats 10,000 people. And I will tell you, as we take a look at a shot now of the crowd that is still gathered out in front of the church entrance and still forming, that every one that you see there -- as we try to advance the story of this morning along just a little bit -- everyone that you see out in front of the church right now trying to get into the main sanctuary, it's not going to happen for them.
They are not going to be allowed to get into that main sanctuary because it is expected to be full. The rope has been drawn, the crowd there has been told that there will be no seating available for them.
I will tell you that there is a runoff area, an overflow area just down the hill from our location here at the gymnasium. And the simple truth of the matter is, is that there is a seat available for everyone who wants it in that -- in that gymnasium. So if all the people there could only get the message that there is plenty of seating for them in that gymnasium, well, we would solve that bit of problem that we have right now.
But everyone is very dignified and very orderly. It is certainly not a problem at this point in time.
But it has been an extraordinary morning, Kyra, because of the arrival of the four presidents, as we have been talking about all morning. We have seen pretty much unprecedented security in this area.
Just in my line of sight right now, I can tell you that we have all manner of police vehicles here. We have a S.W.A.T. team from Dekalb County as well. There have been extensive sweeps of the area as well, as you would expect.
We have a village of media here a well. And it's been an exceptional morning to watch so many people. Police on the ground expecting 25,000 people to show up for this home-going ceremony today -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Tony, just looking at the church, imagining what is going to happen today, all of the various people paying tribute, it's just unbelievable looking at the order of the service and all of the different types of people, all backgrounds, all colors. What an extraordinary time for Bernice King, the daughter. I mean, this is the church where she preaches.
HARRIS: To eulogize to your mother. I mean...
PHILLIPS: And to do it in the spirit of her father as well. What an amazing legacy.
HARRIS: It really is. And to go back to the top of that point you were making, Kyra, think about all of the talent that is here.
And, you know, it's easy to talk about the musical talent that's here. Stevie Wonder is going to perform. BeBe Winans, who you know, is just absolutely fabulous. Byron Cage is a performer, a gospel performer that, Kyra, you turned me on to just before the holidays. And he's the director -- the musical director here, and he's going be performing with probably the mass choir of all mass choirs.
So that's just the musical talent, just a bit of it.
Michael Bolton is going to be performing a song that he wrote for Mrs. King.
And then, you know, there's all the political talent that's here as well. We talked about the four presidents, President Bush, his father, and presidents Clinton and Carter that are here. And Senator Clinton is here as well, Senator Barack Obama from Illinois here.
So all kinds of talent. But you're right, leading up to that most dramatic moment when, you know, Coretta Scott King's baby girl, Bernice King, elder King, Associate Pastor King, will eulogize her mother in front of 10,000 in the main sanctuary and thousands more all around the world.
PHILLIPS: Tony, of course we're going to talking to you a tremendous amount throughout the next four hours. I look forward just to -- going down memory lane with many people here.
HARRIS: Well, it's good to be with you, Kyra, always.
PHILLIPS: Oh, it's wonderful. And so many people that you and I love are there.
I look forward to the guests you're going to bring to us also. So we're going to talk much more in a few minutes, Tony. Thank you.
HARRIS: OK, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Well, the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis Earl Graves was on a plane with Senator Robert Kennedy heading for a campaign appearance in Indianapolis. Weeks later, he escorted Coretta Scott King at the senator's funeral.
Graves later founded "Black Enterprise" magazine. He joins us from New York, along with William Jelani Cobb, a professor of history at Spelman College here in Atlanta who's written extensively about the civil rights movement.
It is such a pleasure to have you both with us.
Jelani, let's start with you. So much to talk about, but this day, what we're going to witness within the next four hours. Personally, what does it -- what does it mean to you?
WILLIAM JELANI COBB, HISTORY PROFESSOR, SPELMAN COLLEGE: Well, it certainly is the end of the an era. In a lot of ways, Coretta Scott King was the most visible link that we've had to that era. And so both as a person who was married to Martin Luther King, and as a activist in her own right, continuing the legacy and the ideals and the visions of the civil rights movement. So it certainly does place the torch in the hands of another generation of people.
PHILLIPS: The torch in the hand of another generation of people. There have been a lot of people talking about who will be the next Coretta Scott King.
Obviously, she can't replaced. She is who she is. But when you look to the future of civil rights movement, is it her daughter, Bernice, is it -- when we think of just the power -- the power of the woman, and where it does go from here, where does it go, the torch?
COBB: Certainly there's a lot of work to do done. I think that's something Coretta Scott King would have agreed with. But there will be no replacing her. There won't be another individual like her.
She performed an extraordinary act and lived an extraordinary life, and did it with uncommon grace and nobility, even. And so I think we will be missing her for a long time in future. And what remains to be seen is how many people it will be will be required to accomplish what she did as an individual.
PHILLIPS: Earl Graves, "uncommon grace" Jelani says. It couldn't be more beautifully put.
EARL GRAVES, FOUNDER, "BLACK ENTERPRISE": Oh, I agree. She was a woman of great dignity. She was a person who visualized a world that would be a better world as Dr. King did.
And she -- what I think is most amazing is how she raised her four children, made happen the -- his birthday become a reality in this country. From that, she went on to start the movement that would, first of all, establish the place he is now in entombed in terms of his burial place at the King Center.
And now -- and the legacy I think we must continue for her is to assure that the monument to Dr. King on the Mall which has been approved by the Senate and the House, now it's just the raising of the $100 million it will take to have that site be in place. And I think that the most important thing we can do in terms of recognizing what she's started out to do, is to complete that.
And then, of course, to continue on with the importance of education, which she has spoken to. And certainly the professor that's there is a living embodiment of that in terms of what he is doing at Spelman College. But that's happening all around the world, and certainly in this country.
And Prof, I'd like to say to you that as we have just completed an issue of the 50 most important corporate executives, female, black, in this country, that they are women in all areas. They are women in communications who can make a difference. There are people in religion that can make a difference. There are people in education that can make a difference. Obviously women in business. And so, what her legacy is, those women, those 50 women who are on that issue this month -- because without the efforts of Dr. King, and Mrs. King and the many other enormous contributions made by the civil rights leaders, both living and dead, we would not have been able to do that issue. Indeed, there would have been on "Black Enterprise" magazine.
PHILLIPS: Actually, to bring up the point of education and looking -- that's interesting, because Earl Graves mentioning the top black women in business. It wasn't long ago I was reading -- I believe it was in "Forbes" -- top black men in business.
It is pretty incredible. I mean, we could talk about business, like Earl Graves said, education, religion, even here in the news media we talk so much about diversity and representation of exactly what Coretta Scott King wanted, and that was more of a multicultural loving word.
COBB: Yes, I agree. And being a professor at Spelman College, I get to see that on a daily basis. So I absolutely agree with what Mr. Graves is saying.
And so when we first received word that Mrs. King had passed away, I had a conversation with some of my students. And I talked about virtually everything that they will do when they leave the gates of the college is in some way or another impacted the options that they have available for them. The whole spectrum of possibilities is a direct outgrowth of the work that's been done by Coretta Scott King and that entire generation of civil rights leaders.
So I certainly concur.
PHILLIPS: You know, I'm not going to mention where it was that I was going to school, but it was a history class that I was taking, and never once did it mention the civil rights movement. And I think it's a big part of where I was living at the time. And then, of course, I moved on and lived in other states where I learned so much more about the civil rights movement.
At Spelman College, when you interact with these students and you talk about leaders in the civil rights movement, Coretta Scott King no doubt a big part of that classroom environment.
COBB: Oh, absolutely. And so we pride ourselves on being an institution that produces women leaders. And so we talk about her as an example.
And when I talk certainly at that institution, you will not enter and leave the gates without knowing a great deal about the civil rights movement. And also the entire lineage of struggle that's happened in order to realize democracy in this country for all of its citizens. And so that's a key point to what we talk about.
PHILLIPS: Let me ask you this -- and Earl Graves, you probably could answer this, too. But when I was thinking about Rosa Parks, and when we were covering her funeral, you know, she was inspired by Emmett Till and what happened, the brutal beating of Emmett Till.
Was there a moment in history like that that inspired Coretta Scott King to become more active? You know, aside from her husband, of course. And even being a peace activist prior that. Was there a moment of history that she could never forget? For example, like the face of Emmett Till for Rosa Parks.
GRAVES: Well, I think -- my sense would be, I think the moment of history where she committed herself even further to carrying on the work of Dr. King was with the tragedy of his assassination. I can't think of a more poignant place in her life that she would make up her mind.
She was a great talent and turned on her own abilities to sing. She didn't say I'm going to go out now and go on the concert stage. She didn't say I'm going to retire and write a book, although she has been working on that. She didn't say she was going to do anything other than to continue on with his legacy.
And, you know, when you -- I want to refer back to your comments about when you were in college, which wasn't that very long ago. I thought you were talking...
PHILLIPS: Actually, I was talking high school. I was going to high school in a certain state.
GRAVES: Well, let me just -- let me just say to you that I find in this country that even in the East, it was only a while ago that they acknowledged in school Dr. King's birthday. So I'm not sure where you went to school, but I wouldn't want you to hold any part of any particular section of this country guilty because I think that until maybe no more than 10 years ago there were many areas of this country where the birthday was not acknowledged to the extent that it needs to be.
Now, I think that we have gone beyond that. And one of things that I remember very early that Mrs. King said to me, she said, "We have to teach our children to not be mediocre," she said to me. And this was 20 years ago.
And I think we have slid some downhill from that point. But she said, "They have to be challenged the way our parents challenged us to want to be the best."
And if she and Dr. King, many other leaders in this country, could achieve what they achieved against adversity as they did in moving segregation, than our young people today could -- it would be the greatest tribute of all to her if young parents today would say to their children, you have to be somebody, you have to do well, you have to dress a certain way, you have to look a certain way, and you have to achieve.
The sense of achievement I think is what's most important. And so when you honor her birthday, it's not just one day you want to honor Dr. King's birthday or what will be her birthday that we will acknowledge or just his monument by going to visit it. What you need to do is honor it by achieving in this country.
And there are many people in this country who want to do something to honor Mrs. King. What they could do is just tutor one child one afternoon, challenge one child to finish high school and go on to college, in terms of what they can achieve. To challenge those people to be their best at where they work.
All of that would be a legacy, it seems to me. It would make the greatest difference in terms of how we would honor Dr. King and Mrs. King.
PHILLIPS: Earl Graves and Jelani Cobb, stay with me, please. We're going to continue to talk about that as we take you to break.
We'll be back in just a few moments as we continue to honor Coretta Scott King.
Live coverage continues after a break.
PHILLIPS: ... where the symphony is playing here is the church where Coretta Scott King's daughter Bernice is a pastor. Pretty amazing musical department as well.
Earl Graves joining us. You know, he founded "Black Enterprise" magazine.
Also with us, William Jelani Cobb, a professor of history at Spelman College here in Atlanta.
We could, of course, listen to this music for hours, couldn't we, gentlemen? You couldn't get enough of the worship and the music.
But we were talking about Coretta Scott King, talking about, Earl Graves, you mentioned that she made it very clear as she raised four children on her own that she expected every parent raising a black child to make sure that young boy or that young girl would not be mediocre but go beyond -- go beyond the norm in every way with regard to education, fighting for civil rights and becoming successful.
GRAVES: It's an important part of what we do today. And what would be perfect, as President Bush is here today, is for him to say to this audience and to this country and to the millions listening around the world that the things that Mrs. King stood for, he is going to be sure and not eradicate it in some way or diminish in terms of its importance.
We talk about cutting the federal deficit. We cannot let programs having to do with education and health care, we cannot let people go to bed in this country hungry. And certainly "Black Enterprise" stands out in front in terms of saying to the people who read it that they cannot only be successful themselves, but they have to give something back.
And if there's anything that I would hope comes out of what happened today, again, I would hope the leaders here recognize what is -- this is not just a day to be on television, but a day to give back and a day to continue the legacy of what both Mrs. King and obviously Dr. King represented.
PHILLIPS: Of course Coretta Scott King had a tremendous admiration for Horace Mann. As a freshman at Antioch College she was shown a large stone monument in the center of campus, a tribute to Antioch's first president, Horace Mann. She read the famous words that became the college's motto: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."
Of course King later made a speech at her alma mater and said, "Man's words became a challenge I took very seriously and which became a paramount goal in my life."
GRAVES: Well, you know, I would say to you, it's almost fitting that Atlanta is the place where Mrs. King will be eulogized today. First of all, it was obviously their home. She was not born in Atlanta, but it became their home. And it really has become the Citadel, if you will, for the places and the best things that can happen in the African-American legacy.
When you look at -- if you're talking about education, this is a great city to raise your kids. If you're talking about business, it is a great city to raise -- to do business. If you're talking about place to live, it's a great place to live.
If you look at the city itself, it's the place that African- Americans hold up as the place that would hope to be a part of. Whether or not it's moving there, whether or not it's having a job there, whether or not it's being a part of that community, it is an exciting place to be. And it is one of my favorite cities.
And I certainly think New York City is a great city. But if I had a choice in terms of where I would live, if I were not living in New York, it would be Atlanta, because there are so many things happening for black people in this country that make such a difference. And it is only, again, I think, fitting that this is the city where she's being eulogized, being remembered, and being recognized.
PHILLIPS: And Jelani, you teach here in Atlanta. You teach at Spelman. Not only from the college perspective -- and we can look at other colleges, obviously, here, too, that are so fantastic for African-American students, you know, Morehouse.
How important -- how important do you think it is to have colleges like Spelman, Morehouse, Xavier in New Orleans, that really, well, push and strive for exactly what Earl Graves is talking about?
COBB: Well, I think they're essential. I'm a graduate of Howard University. Dr. King, his alma mater was Morehouse College. And so these institutions have for a long time, going back to just after the Civil War, have had this standard of excellence, and pursuing excellence and inspiring students to achieve excellency on whatever barriers may be placed in front of them. You asked earlier about whether or not there was a particular moment that inspired Coretta Scott King to lead the life that she did, and I think that rather than there being an individual moment, that there were probably a series of moments throughout her life.
She grew up in rural Alabama during the depth of segregation...
PHILLIPS: Picking cotton.
COBB: Picking cotton in Alabama. She was only about four years old when the Scottsboro trials happened, the trial of nine young men, young African-American men, for the rape of two white women that they did not commit. And so -- they were convicted.
And so she had grown up in a climate that was steeped in the racist traditions of the Old South. And so for her to come out of that, and for her family to have raised her in that context and sent her to Antioch College, indicated a sort of insistence on trend- setting (INAUDIBLE) that have been set for black people in that point of time.
PHILLIPS: Let's take a moment -- I'm told that T.D. Jakes is stepping up to the stage. We've been listening to New Birth Total Praise Choir. Byron Cage, an amazing gospel singer, is the director of music there.
We're starting to see a number of dignitaries.
And feel free, Earl, and also Jelani, if there is someone that we should recognize and talk about as we look at these live pictures. Just jump in and let me know.
But I'm told that the family is supposed to arrive soon and other special guests that will be seated up in front. And when the choir starts up again, we'll listen in for a moment.
But you were talking about this time in history with regard to Coretta Scott King growing up in this environment. Would you say that as she got involved with peace activism and the civil rights movement, do you think that she -- I mean, what do you think continued to inspire her after the death of her husband?
Earl Graves here was a single woman raising four kids at the age of 40. What do you think kept her going?
COBB: Well, I mean, I think in -- I think she's a phenomenal woman in her own right. And so she continued with the path that she had been on even before she had met Dr. King.
She had a career as a student activist before they met. One of things that people don't talk about is -- don't recognize is that Coretta Scott King was a committed pacifist, actually earlier than Dr. King was, than Martin Luther King was. And so she had been opposed to war under any circumstances.
PHILLIPS: She spoke out about the Vietnam War. COBB: Yes, before -- before he did, actually.
PHILLIPS: You know what I love? Is that her wedding ceremony with Martin Luther King Jr., she said to -- she said -- she made it very clearly, "When we get married and we give our vows, I am not going to say 'obey your husband.'" And sure enough, she didn't say it.
COBB: Yes. I think that she was not conventional. She was not conventional. And we saw that after she continued along that same path that she had been on after his tragic assassination.
PHILLIPS: Jelani, Earl, stay with me.
GRAVES: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: We're going to take another quick break as we continue to listen to the beautiful ceremony here at New Birth Church as we remember and honor Coretta Scott King today.
PHILLIPS: Live pictures from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, where Coretta Scott King's daughter is an associate pastor. Senior pastor, Bishop Eddie Long.
The family is expected to be seated soon. Other dignitaries, including four presidents, attending the service today. The list is amazing, the order of service, how many people in the musical -- here, Robert Schuller. Of course, we know him very well within the spiritual community.
Jelani Cobb, professor of history at Spelman College, here with me in Atlanta also. Also Earl Graves, founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine, joining us live as well.
Let's talk about the spiritual impact and all of the people that loved Coretta Scott King and admired her walk, as a very strong Christian woman. Robert Schuller being one of them. Crystal Cathedral, am I right? Yes, that's right.
I've heard everything from -- I mean, from Gandhi to Robert Schuller to T.D. Jakes -- I mean, I could -- the list goes on. But this was a woman admired by so many -- yes, Earl?
GRAVES: You asked me to jump in. T.D. Jakes is on your screen now, and then Andy Young to his right and then I think that was Reverend Lowery to the right. Now those are -- Andy King -- Andy Young, excuse me. And obviously, T.D. Jakes...
PHILLIPS: Robert Schuller there, right?
GRAVES: Well, not Robert -- speaking of people who have really been involved in the civil rights movement. And Dr. Lowery and Dr. Young have been enormous leaders in that movement. And obviously, we're both very close to Dr. Young, and I'm sure we'll be hearing from them in their remarks today. And I'm sure we'll be hearing from T.D. Jakes, who is certainly an important leader in this country, also.
PHILLIPS: Well, let's talk -- let's -- we're going to sort of move the discussion, obviously by our pictures and things that come to mind for both of you.
So let's talk about the spiritual life of Coretta Scott King. And, was she -- let's go back, do you want it? Let's go back before she met Martin Luther King, marrying a minister. You were saying that she had a very interesting relationship with MLK's father. He actually didn't want her to marry this up and coming pastor, civil rights activist, right?
COBB: Well, he had someone else in mind for his son. And Martin Luther King Sr. was an enormously influential pastor in Atlanta. And he kind of envisioned a marriage that would tie the King family to another political family in Atlanta. And when Martin goes off to graduate school, he meets Coretta and he decides that he wants to marry her.
And Martin Sr. wasn't shy about saying well, I expected him to marry someone else. And she kind of persevered in the face of that, and so, even on their wedding day, he said, you all don't have to go through with this, and said that you shouldn't get married unless you feel like you can't do anything other than that. He said I preach because I can't not preach.
PHILLIPS: I want to recognize the King children coming in right now, live pictures.
PHILLIPS: Yes, we see Yolanda and Martin and Dexter and Bernice, making their way, obviously, to the front of the church.
Go ahead, continue your thought about...
COBB: Oh, so Reverend King Sr. said I preach because I can't not preach. I can't help it. I have to do it. He said but you should only get married if you feel that same way about this person. And they said that they did, and they were married after that.
PHILLIPS: And Earl Graves, he went on the write some pretty incredible love letters to Coretta. I came across this -- yes, go ahead. Your thoughts?
GRAVES: I wasn't aware of the fact that Dr. King Sr., that is, Daddy King, had quote, "picked another person for Reverend King." I had understood that he had some concerns about her interest in being a concert singer and therefore that didn't sit very well in terms of her ability to be the wife of minister. That I understood.
But I think that things have worked out so well, in terms of the life that they led to together and the contributions that they both made, that's that really unimportant. I think you can see President Bush coming across the front of your screen, also -- and Mrs. Bush, if you -- you saw them to the left. You asked me to interrupt and I... PHILLIPS: No, absolutely, Earl...
GRAVES: You asked me to play newsperson when I saw someone so...
PHILLIPS: I want you to be my co-anchor, Earl, OK? Along with Jelani. Well, you know, talking with regard to -- there we go. We see Jimmy Carter now, Bill Clinton. Father President Bush.
Look at that. Let's listen in to the reaction.
GRAVES: I think a lot of that has to do with President Clinton, taking nothing away from the other presidents.
PHILLIPS: Earl Graves, you make a very good point. You think that the round of applause is for Bill Clinton, who made his home in Harlem. Of course, very well-loved by the black community.
GRAVES: And I think President Carter is revered also, obviously.
PHILLIPS: It's possible the president might be introduced. Should we pause for a moment and -- let's pause for a minute and listen.
GRAVES: You see the senators. Brother Senator Ted Kennedy there, also.
PHILLIPS: This points out something that we will definitely talk about, and that's. the relationship that Jacqueline Kennedy and Coretta Scott King had. We'll make note to talk more about that as the president, the first lady, the former presidents, are being seated.
GRAVES: I sat Mrs. King almost eight hours in the cortege -- funeral cortege there, went from New York to Washington, D.C., where the senator was entombed. And you really get to know a person when you spend -- in that kind of environment, looking at the thousands of people we passed alongside the train, as we worked our way to Washington, D.C. And if you didn't know Mrs. King, at the end of that day, I certainly think I knew her on a much different level than...
PHILLIPS: Hold that thought, Earl. Hold that thought, because I want to talk about that with you some more. One moment.
BISHOP EDDIE L. LONG, SR. PASTOR, NEW BIRTH: Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. It is an honor for us here at New Birth to host the homegoing of this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, gracious, beautiful woman of God.
And we thank the King family and we're in much prayer for you as we celebrate this day. But we know this is momma and you have your personal moments and I'm speaking for the public. We thank you for sharing who was so precious to you with the world. And we are better because she was here. Somebody needs to celebrate that moment. Somebody needs to bless God for that. Hallelujah.
As we celebrate the past and we mourn the present, we anticipate the future. And in this great and wonderful moment, I will say this. As we celebrate this lovely and gracious woman, as we understand through her faith, through the faith of her husband, we are all in a better place, doing greater things. Doors have been opened.
It is truly an honor and a tribute to her legacy that in this house rarely assembled, where you find four presidents standing to honor. Hallelujah. And many others who have come and paused at this moment.
I would like to say this, because my job is to make sure that this moves smoothly and quickly, that we are finished before Jesus returns. So let me say this. In the spirit that we -- this is a worship. This is a celebration. This is a moment that we give honor to God.
And we celebrate a life.
One of things that momma said to me that is so dear to me that stays with me, and I'll say this. When I asked her how did she handle all the pulls of being momma, a husband, a wife with her husband traveling all over the world, how did she handle all of that pressure? And she said, "I understood when I married Martin I that didn't marry just a man; I married a vision, I married a destiny." We are celebrating. The destiny, and the dream and vision and is still alive.
And so in all of this, I would say this, please understand, when Abraham got ready to bury his wife, the Bible said that he mourned and he wept, but then he got up. Today, we will mourn. Some of us will weep. But what Coretta Scott King wants us to do after this moment, is to get up, carry the torch, move forward.
This is the day that the Lord has , and we shall rejoice and be made glad in it. Our service will follow as the order is already printed in your book.
SUZAN JOHNSON COOK, HAMPTON MINISTRIES' CONF.: Praise the Lord, everybody. I want to take the hand of the person closest to you today. As you take the hand, say it's good being here with you. Bishop Long called Mrs. King "mother," and so many of us also were her children. As I went home to get my change of clothes, her last note to me fell out, that said you did an awesome job at King Week, and it was signed, "mother."
And although so many of us loved her, we know Martin, and Dexter, Yolanda, and Bernice, she was your mother, and each of us who has lost a mother knows what that feels like. And so today, we come to share together with you to let you know that we love from near and far.
And so we're here with you, and we thank God for allowing you to share your mother with us.
Let us pray. Lord, we lift your name on high. How we loved to sing your praises. We're so glad you're in our lives. Now, God, you have been the god of our weary years, you've been the God of our silent tears. But we thank God for allowing us to know a woman named Coretta Scott King. Thank you for her witness, her walk, her work. Thank you for her elegance and her eloquence. Thank you that she stood regally and royally as a quintessential queen. Thank you, God, that we were able to touch her, and she was able to touch us, a woman of dignity, a woman of grace, a woman of character, and class and charisma.
But now, God, we come asking you in a special way to bless us. We have come from near and far, from Soweto and Southlands, from east and west, from north and south, from around this globe to say, thank you. Thank you, Lord, for the life of Coretta Scott King, a woman who walked so wonderfully that the state of Georgia said, this is first woman, this is the first African-American who will lie in state in our state.
We thank you, God, that she lived such a life of love and legacy, that we now might carry the torch. So we ask that you to bless Yolanda, Bernice, Dexter and all of her family right now, in the name of Jesus Christ. Bless them as they stand. Let them know that we are with them, and that you love them, and there's nothing that shall separate us from your love this day.
Bless Bernice in a special way, Lord, as she comes today to speak a word from you, and we ask, Lord, that we who stand here might be a blessing. I want you to shake that hand that you're holding lightly, and I want you to shake off any discouragement that's in this house. I don't care how long you stood in line, how long you were on the highway. You weren't there any longer than she had to walk. We thank you, God. Not up in here today.
Give god The glory. In your name, we pray. Amen.
PHILLIPS: New Birth Total Praise Choir, director there by Minister Byron Cage, the incredible gospel singer, has a number of CDs out, as well as directing this choir. Along with Martin Luther King Commemorative Choir. Its director Dr. David Morrow.
I want to continue our conversations with our two guests, Jelani Cobb, a professor of history at Spelman College here in Atlanta, and also Earl Graves, founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine. I want to talk more about Coretta Scott King, her legacy, and of course her spiritual side, right after a quick break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Our live coverage continues of the Coretta Scott King funeral. Once again, I'm joined by Jelani Cobb, professor at Spelman College in Atlanta. And also Earl Graves, a founder of "Black Enterprise" magazine. He's joining us live from New York. We were talking earlier about how these two met. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Let's talk about that first encountered. We sort of touched on Daddy King had a different idea of who he wanted his son to marry. But that changed.
COBB: It was funny the way the met. He had been given her phone number by a mutual friend who said, you should talk to Coretta. I think you two would have some things in common. So, he called her, he cold called her. She didn't know him. She didn't know he was going to call.
He just started talking. You know, within a minutes, he convinced her to have lunch with him. She met him for lunch. She said that her initial impression was that he was too short for her.
The more he talked, because he kept talking, he seemed to get taller and taller. They developed this connection between the two of them that was really quite interesting. After their first lunch, he told her, that he wanted to marry her. He said there are four things that I want in a wife. They are character, personality, beauty and intelligence. And you have all four. That was the beginning of their relationship.
PHILLIPS: Well, you said the more he talked, he became taller. Especially if you read these love letters from MLK to Coretta. This one, my goodness. This is pure poetry. Darling, I miss you so much. In fact, much too much for my own good. I never realized that you were such an intimate part of my life. My life without you is like a year without a spring time, which comes to give illumination and heat to the atmosphere saturated by the dark, cold breeze of winter. Oh, excuse me, my darling. I didn't mean to go off on such a poetical and romantic flight. How else we can express the deep emotions of life other than in poetry. Wow.
Earl, he was quite the romantic, wasn't he?
GRAVES: The guy was smooth.
You got to give him credit for the poetic love letters. Earl, Why didn't Coretta Scott King remarry.
GRAVES: She was married to those things that were important to her. This country, her children. The things that she saw that needed fixing in this country and around the world. Of course, who can step up in the shoes of a person like Dr. Martin Luther King.
I didn't know her well enough to be able to ask her why did you not remarry? It just seemed to me that she had a very full life in terms of those things that were most important to her. I can't say she wasn't lonely at times, that's only natural. I think she was fulfilled by seeing the successes of her children. She was filled by knowing those things she was trying to accomplish, were being accomplished. Knowing that she was playing a role in terms of leadership for many people in many organizations and many factors around the world.
It was sure, whether or not she was talking about Nelson Mandela was certainly aware of her passing. I heard you said, earlier this morning, on CNN -- it was CNN headline news --
PHILLIPS: That's all right. We talk more about that in a moment. We just want to take a second, Earl, and listen to Sister Miriam Fawaz of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, she's going to sing The Lord's Prayer.
MIRIAM FAWAZ, NEW BIRTH: (SINGING)
PHILLIPS: Now that is The Lord's Prayer. Sister Miriam Fawaz, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Couldn't think of a more beautiful way to perform The Lord's Prayer for Coretta Scott King. Coretta Scott King graduated from Antioch College in Ohio in 1951 with a degree in music and education.
Her older sister even said that she was always singing, always wanting to play music. The family sang together at choirs at church, at school. She studied at the New England Conservatory. We talked a lot about her musical roots.
She also had a benefit concert in 1956 where she performed. She sang soprano at a benefit concert in New York to mark the anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott. And Duke Ellington and Harry Belafonte donated performances for the same concert. You may remember her relationship with Harry Belafonte, he actually was by her side when she attended the funeral of her husband Martin Luther King Jr.
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