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Naomi King

Civil rights activist Naomi King was born in Dothan, Alabama, on November 17, 1931 to a single mother, Bessie Barber Bailey. Her mother, a cook in a prominent Atlanta home, taught her social graces. King, educated in Atlanta Public Schools, excelled in French and English. As a young woman, King was often selected by local clothing stores as a preferred fashion model, at times featured in shop windows. King and her mother belonged to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Sr. served as senior pastor. At the church, King became acquainted with the pastor’s children, and she caught the eye of his youngest son, A.D.

In 1949, King entered Spelman College, where she spent a year studying French before marrying A.D. Williams King, Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and youngest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., in 1950. She later attended the University of Alabama and studied interior design. She would have five children: Alfred D.W. King III; Alveda King; Esther Darlene King; Reverend Vernon King of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Reverend Derek B. King of Indianapolis, Indiana. King lived most of her life as a mother and First Lady. She brought musical concerts, women’s enrichment programs, and tools for living to her husband’s congregations. Together, she and her husband supported Martin Luther King, Jr., when, in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama; at the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957; when students in Greensboro, North Carolina, launch the sit-in movement in 1960; through the Birmingham campaign of 1963; during 1963’s “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”; and throughout 1965’s campaign to vote in Selma. Toward the end of the campaign in Birmingham, on May 11, 1963, a bomb destroyed the Gaston Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was staying, and another damaged the home of Naomi and A.D. King.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. This tragedy was soon followed by the death of King’s husband, A.D., in 1969; on July 21, King and her children were vacationing in Nassau when A.D. drowned in their home swimming pool. On July 30, 1974, King’s mother-in-law, Alberta Christine Williams King, was murdered by deranged gunman Marcus Chenault as she played the Lord’s Prayer at Ebenezer Church. In 1976, King’s younger daughter, Darlene died while jogging from an apparent heart attack, and ten years later, her son Al died in the same manner. In 1984, King’s father-in-law, Martin Luther King, Sr., passed away from a heart attack, and in 2006, she lost her sister-in-law, Coretta Scott King, to advanced stage ovarian cancer. Despite these losses, King has kept her husband’s memory alive through her establishment of the A.D. King Foundation in 2008. She received the SCLC Rosa Parks Freedom Award in January 2008.

Naomi King was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 14, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.071

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/14/2010

Last Name

King

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Schools

Walker Street Elementary School

Davis Street School

Booker T. Washington High School

Spelman College

First Name

Naomi

Birth City, State, Country

Dothan

HM ID

KIN14

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made. We Will Rejoice And Be Glad In It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

11/17/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Civil rights activist Naomi King (1931 - ) was the wife of the late A.D. Williams King, brother to Martin Luther King, Jr. She and her husband supported the Civil Rights Movement. King received the SCLC Rosa Parks Freedom Award in January 2008.

Employment

Citizens Trust Bank

Bank of Louisville, KY

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Naomi King's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Naomi King lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Naomi King describes her mother's family background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Naomi King remembers the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Naomi King recalls her experiences at Walker Street Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Naomi King describes her experiences during the Great Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Naomi King recalls her childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Naomi King describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Naomi King talks about the segregated movie theaters in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Naomi King talks about her experiences of segregation in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Naomi King remembers her friends at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Naomi King describes her involvement at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Naomi King describes her experiences at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Naomi King remembers the segregated retail stores in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Naomi King describes her experiences at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Naomi King remembers her courtship and marriage to Alfred Daniel Williams King

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Naomi King talks about her husband, Alfred Daniel Williams King

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Naomi King talks about the early years of her marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Naomi King remembers the assassination of Alberta Williams King, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Naomi King remembers the assassination of Alberta Williams King, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Naomi King talks about her children

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Naomi King describes her husband's pastoral career

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Naomi King describes her husband's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Naomi King recalls the bombing of her home in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Naomi King recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Naomi King describes her relationship with Coretta Scott King and Christine King Farris

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Naomi King remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Naomi King describes her husband's career at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Naomi King talks about the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Naomi King talks about the FBI's surveillance of her family

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Naomi King recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commitment to nonviolence

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Naomi King remembers the death of her husband, Alfred Daniel Williams King

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Naomi King describes the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Naomi King remembers the death of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Naomi King describes her work with Coretta Scott King

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Naomi King remembers the death of Coretta Scott King

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Naomi King reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Naomi King describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Naomi King shares a message to future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Naomi King reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Naomi King reflects upon her husbands' legacy, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Naomi King reflects upon her husband's legacy, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Naomi King narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Naomi King recalls the bombing of her home in Birmingham, Alabama
Naomi King recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commitment to nonviolence
Transcript
Now talk to me a little bit about the incident of your house being bombed in, in Birmingham [Alabama], 'cause they were calling it Bombingham at that time (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Bombingham, right, right.$$So let's first talk about the bombing at your home when it was in--and what happened? Give me the, the details of that incident?$$Okay, the--it was May the 11th, 1963, a Saturday before Mother's Day and I had set my dining room table with all of my finery on it because the next day was Mother's Day and so I wanted to have everything you know pretty and ready to go for Mother's Day. So it was exactly eleven o'clock, May the 11th, 1963, a Saturday night. My husband [Alfred Daniel Williams King] was in the bedroom working on his sermon. The children were all in bed and after I had finished setting the table and all I decided that I would just sit in my living room and just pray and reflect and just enjoy the peace and quiet of, of the evening. So I was sitting there just you know praying and reflecting when my husband got up and came to the front of, the front--opened the front door. No, he came up the hall and he said, he said, "It's too quiet in here." He said, "Let's, let's just get out of here." So I remember while I was sitting there the picture window began to crack but I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything and I was just sitting there and at that time that's when he said, he said, "It's too quiet in here. Let's get out here." And opened the front door and he said, "Let's just get out of here," he said, "it's too quiet in here." So he came over and took me by my hand and by the time we got up from the sofa and headed down our hallway, our house was like an L, by the time we got like down by the hallway, the first--the cracking of the, of the windowpane was the first bomb that was hit and I'm told that it was tossed, that's what I'm told. It was tossed and then the second bomb was the one that brought all of the front of the house--oh, I'm sorry--we'll get this?$$Let's stop for a second. Okay.$$The second bomb was the one that brought the front of the house down so that is when the house was bombed and the time.$$And your children were in the house as well?$$Right.$$So you just got everybody out?$$What happened, when that happened then we got everybody up and we went out the back, out the back door because the front was all blown out and was gone and we went out.$$And so, did you, where did you go to stay until--did you fix that house or did you move from that house (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) The house was eventually fixed and we stayed in it because the front was damaged you know, but we could stay in the back of it so it was, it was fixed.$$And did they ever find out who was responsible for this?$$Yes, there was a witness and his name was Roosevelt Tatum, I think that was his name I'm not sure, I'm told that he saw an officer toss something. There was a police car across the street. I'm told that Roosevelt saw that officer toss something and so I'm assuming that must've been the, the first bomb that was tossed over you know into, into the hedges of that and he supposedly went and, and got in a ditch you know 'cause he was afraid you know for his life and so he went and got in a ditch and it was the second bomb that was, that brought the front of the house down, so that's what I'm told.$Now, we know that the nonviolence philosophy was Martin Luther King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] thing, but how did your brother [sic.]--was he, I guess all the--did he buy into it all the way? I mean some people bought into it somewhat, some people bought into it all the way. Was he all the way in with nonviolence?$$I would think so, I can give you two--I'll tell you two stories that, that led me to believe that he bought in it and he lived just what he said, he lived it. I can remember in 1955 when I went to--let's see, to see him and Coretta [Coretta Scott King] because Yolanda [Yolanda King] was their first child and, and, and it was born. This was Montgomery [Alabama] and I went you know to, to see my--'cause she was born on my birthday like I told you, so I wanted to see my niece. So we went and I don't know what day it was but it was a night about eleven o'clock. I don't know what day it was and I was sitting in the darkened living room in there and Coretta was busy back with Yolanda, busy and all and Martin came in, and so when he came in--I told you my nickname is Nene and that's all he ever called me was Nene. I don't care where we were whether--he'd call me Nene. So when, and so he said, "Hi Nene [HistoryMaker Naomi King]." I said, "Hey, ML," so he walked over to his mantel and it was dark in there, all you saw was just the light from the street, you know from--through the window. And I'm sitting there and I glad he couldn't see my face you know. So he walked over to the mantel and he put his hands up on the, the mantel and he said, "You know what Nene?" I said, "What?" He said, and he put his hands up to his throat where his tie was and he said, "You know what Nene?" I said, "What?" He said, "You know what?" He said, and he was fingering, he said, "You know what they tried to choke me to death with my tie. They tried to choke me to death with my tie." So I was just quiet and didn't say anything, and he said--he just kept you know fingering with his tie and he said, "But you know what Nene," he said, "the more they do to me, the more I'm gonna love them 'cause that's what I'm supposed to do. God said that I'm supposed (unclear)." I just couldn't stand it, I just, I just, I just couldn't stand it. I'm glad he couldn't see my face 'cause it brought tears to my eyes. So that was one instance that, that I knew that he was like committed. The other time was when he was in New York [New York] after the stabbing, and I would call him and we would talk you know during the day just to see how he's doing and all that, and so when I talked to him on one occasion I said, I said, "Martin is there anything I can do for you?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "What is it?" I told you my mother [Bessie Barber Bailey] taught me how to cook and, and I didn't like to cook but I did it 'cause I had to. And he said, "Make me a sweet potato pie." I said, "Okay," I said, "I'll find out." I said--he called his wife Corrie, he said, "Find out when Corrie's going to take the flight up in here and if you can make me a sweet potato pie." And I said, "Okay, I'll do that." And so I went straight in, fixed the sweet--find out when she was gonna be leaving, made the sweet potato pie, put it in a plastic container and took it over there for her to take it to, you know to him. So make a long story short when I talked to him, I said, "You got your pie?" He said, "Yeah, Nene I got my pie." He said, "It's delicious as always." And I said, "Well, I'm so glad Martin." And he said, "Nene?" I said, "Yeah ML?" He said, "You know what?" I said, "What?" He said, "If I had sneezed I would've been dead." I just, I almost dropped the phone (makes sound), I couldn't stand it. So when he says if he had sneezed he would've been dead, and when I finally got to myself, I cam- I said, "Martin, ML," I said, "thank god you did not sneeze." I had to hang up the phone.