Christine King Farris, late sibling of MLK, receives rare tribute at Georgia Capitol

Jul 14, 2023, 2:26 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock were among scores of mourners who paid tribute Friday at the Capitol to the late Christine King Farris, who was the last living sibling of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Farris’ casket lay under the building’s gold dome — an honor usually reserved for prominent political figures that has been bestowed on few African Americans. She died last month at the age of 95.

Kemp said Farris was instrumental in preserving her brother’s memory, but also an influential civil rights leader herself. Farris helped Coretta Scott King build The King Center and helped to teach King’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

“She was a gracious and courageous woman, an inspiration to many,” Kemp said.

Warnock noted that Farris, who was born in 1927, grew up in the segregated South, but he said she lived to see the country change the way King described when he said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“She knew in her heart how great we are at our best,” Warnock said.

That type of faith helped him win his Senate seat, he said.

“We owe it to her to continue to fight, to keep the faith, to love one another,” he said. “Only a great soul could have summoned all of us here, Democrats and Republicans, red, yellow, brown, Black and white.”

Other speakers recalled Farris’ impeccable sense of style and her long work as an educator at Spelman College, a historically Black liberal arts school for women. Farris also graduated from the school, receiving her degree in economics in 1948 on the same day King earned his degree in sociology from Morehouse College.

Isaiah Walker, 33, attended the memorial service with his four daughters. Long an admirer of King, he said he felt a kinship with the entire family. He also wanted his daughters to know more about Farris’ life.

“This is American history and as an African American, it’s our history as well,” he said.

Farris wrote two children’s books about her life, “My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” and “March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World.” In 2009, she wrote a memoir, “Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family and My Faith.”

Farris was also a mainstay at the ecumenical service celebrating her brother’s birthday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her grandfather and father also preached and where Farris remained a member.

Robin Donaldson, 64, also a member of the church, scrolled through photos of Farris on his cellphone before the memorial service started.

He said he would take a photo with Farris at the church every time he saw her in a new outfit.

“She was my buddy,” he said. “She was very welcoming. She was always embraceable.”

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Christine King Farris, late sibling of MLK, receives rare tribute at Georgia Capitol