ATLANTA — Christine King Farris, the last living sister of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.has died.
Her niece, Reverend Berenice KingShe tweeted that her «dear aunt» died on Thursday. She was 95.
For decades after her brother’s murder in 1968Farris worked together with his widow, coretta scott king, to preserve and promote his legacy. But unlike her high-profile sister-in-law of hers, Farris’s activism and grief was often behind the scenes.
“I may not have always been in the line of the march, but that was true of many of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement,” Marcellus Barksdale, a professor of history at Farris’ Morehouse College, said in a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. «Because of the luminescence of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, Christine was somewhat toned down by it, but she was no less important.»
Farris was born Willie Christine King on September 11, 1927, in Atlanta. She was the first child of the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Christine Williams King.
Farris helped Coretta Scott King build The King Center and helped teach the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. philosophy of nonviolent resistance. For years, his dignified and regal presence was a mainstay at the ecumenical service celebrating his brother’s birthday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his grandfather and father also preached and where Farris remained a member.
The King Center tweeted Thursday that it mourns the loss of Farris, a founding board member, former vice president and treasurer, along with a photo of her.
Bernice King tweeted a photo of herself with Farris, writing: «I love and will miss you Aunt Christine.»
Martin Luther King III he tweeted that he, his wife and their daughter had been able to spend time with their aunt in her final days.
“Aunt Christine embodied what it means to be a public servant. Like my father, she spent her life fighting for equality and against racism in America,” she tweeted. “She defied the odds that held back too many marginalized communities and became a civil rights leader and acclaimed author. No stranger to adversity, Aunt Christine used the tragedies of the murders of her mother and her brother to fight for change in America.»
Farris outlived many of the people she loved, including her parents, her two brothers, her sister-in-law, and her niece, Yolanda. She graduated from Spelman College in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in economics the same day Martin Luther King Jr. earned his sociology degree from Morehouse College.
A decade later, Farris returned to Spelman, where he worked for more than 50 years. In 1960 she married Isaac Newton Farris. The couple had two children, Angela Christine Farris Watkins and Isaac Newton Farris Jr.
«Our hearts are heavy in Atlanta today with the news that Christine King Farris has died,» Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement.
«Mrs. Farris was a force in her own right,» Dickens said. «A champion of literacy and education, she taught at her alma mater, Spelman College, for nearly 50 years. As the last of the King siblings, she spent much of her time of his life advocating for equality. He once said that his brother Martín simply gave us the blueprint, but that it was our duty to ‘carry it out’”.
Farris wrote two children’s books about his life, «My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.» and forward! The day my brother Martin changed the world. In 2009, she wrote her memoir, «Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith.»
Farris would often share stories about his brother when he was a child and a normal young man in order to make him and his accomplishments more accessible to people.
“They think it just happened, that it showed up fully formed, without context, ready to change the world,” he said.