- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — Yolanda King, Martin Luther King’s eldest child, who pursued her father’s dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking, has died. She was 51.

Miss King collapsed and died late Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. The family did not know the cause of death, but relatives think it might have been a heart problem, he said.

“She was an actress, author, producer, advocate for peace and nonviolence, who was known and loved for her motivational and inspirational contributions to society,” the King family said.

Former Mayor Andrew Young, a lieutenant of her father’s who has remained close to the family, said Miss King was going to her brother Dexter’s home when she collapsed in the doorway.

Her death occurred less than a year and a half after her mother, Coretta Scott King, died in January 2006 after battling ovarian cancer and the effects of a stroke. Her struggle prompted her daughter to work with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about strokes, especially among blacks.

Miss King, who lived in California, was an actress, ran a production company and appeared in films including “Ghosts of Mississippi.” She played Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries “King.”

“Yolanda was lovely. She wore the mantle of princess, and she wore it with dignity and charm,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, one of her father’s close aides in the civil rights movement.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also worked with her father, said: “She lived with a lot of the trauma of our struggle. The movement was in her DNA.”

White House press secretary Tony Snow said President Bush and the first lady were sad to learn of Miss King’s death, adding, “Our thoughts are with the King family today.”

Miss King was born Nov. 17, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., where her father was then preaching. When she was 10 weeks old, the King family home was bombed as her father attended a boycott rally.

In 1963, when she was 7, her father mentioned her and her siblings at the March on Washington, saying: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

She was 12 when her father was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.

Miss King was a 1976 graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Mass., where she majored in theater and Afro-American studies. She also earned a master’s degree in theater from New York University.

At her father’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, she performed a series of solo skits that told stories, including a girl’s first ride on a desegregated bus.

She also urged the audience to be a force for peace and love.

“We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other,” Miss King said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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