Yolanda King, the
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s eldest child who
pursued her father's dream of racial harmony through drama
and motivational speaking, collapsed and died late
Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., said Steve Klein, a
spokesman for the King Center. She was 51. 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 in a statement.
mayor Andrew Young, a lieutenant of her father's who has
remained close to the family, said King was going to her
brother Dexter's home when she collapsed in the
Her death came
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
Yolanda King, who
lived in California, was an actress, ran a production
company, and appeared in numerous films, including Ghosts
of Mississippi. She played Rosa Parks in the
1978 miniseries King.
lovely. She wore the mantle of princess, and she wore it
with dignity and charm,'' said the Reverend Joseph Lowery,
one of her father's close aides in the civil rights
movement. He added she was ''thoroughly committed to
the movement and found her own means of expressing
that commitment through drama.''
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.'' The Reverend Al Sharpton called her
a ''torchbearer for her parents and a committed
activist in her own right.''
White House press
secretary Tony Snow said President Bush and the first
lady were sad to learn of King's death, adding, ''Our
thoughts are with the King family today.''
founded and led Higher Ground Productions, which is billed
as a ''gateway for inner peace, unity, and global
transformation.'' On her company's Web site, she
described her mission as encouraging personal growth
and positive social change.
The flag at the
King Center, where she was a board member, flew at
half-staff on Wednesday.
King--nicknamed Yoki by the family--was born
November 17, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., where her
father was then preaching. Her brother Martin III was
born in 1957; brother Dexter in 1961; and sister
Bernice in 1963.
She was just 2
weeks old when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a
bus there, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott spearheaded
by her father.
When she was 10
weeks old, the King family home was bombed on January 30,
1956, as her father attended a boycott rally. Neither she
nor her mother was injured when the device exploded on
the front porch.
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.
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
Yolanda King was
the most visible of the four children during this year's
Martin Luther King Day in January, the first since her
When asked by the
Associated Press at that event how she was dealing with
the loss of her mother, she responded: ''I connected with
her spirit so strongly. I am in direct contact with
her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so
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 and a college
student's recollection of the 1963 campaign to
desegregate Birmingham, Ala.
She also urged
the audience to be a force for peace and love, and to use
the King holiday each year to ask tough questions about
their own beliefs about prejudice. ''We must keep
reaching across the table and, in the tradition of
Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each
other,'' she said.
arrangements would be announced later, the family said in a
brief statement. (AP)