Christine King Farris, the last living sibling of Martin Luther King Jr., dies at 95
Associated Press | 7/13/2023, 6 p.m.
Christine King Farris, the last living sibling of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died Thursday, June 29, 2023, at age 95.
Her niece, Dr. Bernice A. King, tweeted a photo of herself with Mrs. Farris, writing, “I love you and will miss you, Aunt Christine.”
A three-day tribute to her life began Tuesday at Spelman College, where she lies in state. The services continue 10 a.m. Saturday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where she also will lie in state. A Celebration of Life will be held at the church at 5 p.m.
For decades after her brother’s assassination in 1968, Mrs. Farris worked alongside his widow, Coretta Scott King, to preserve and promote his legacy. But unlike her high-profile sister-in-law, Mrs. Farris’ activism and grief often were behind the scenes.
“She may not have always been on the line of the march, but that was true with a lot of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Marcellus Barksdale, a Morehouse College history professor in a 2009 Associated Press interview about Mrs. Farris.
Mrs. Farris was born Willie Christine King on Sept. 11, 1927, in Atlanta. She was the first child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Christine Williams King.
Mrs. Farris helped Coretta Scott King build The King Center and helped teach Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence. For years, her dignified presence was a mainstay at the ecumenical service celebrating her brother’s birthday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her grandfather and father also preached, and where Mrs. Farris remained a member.
The King Center tweeted Thursday that it mourns the loss of Mrs. Farris, a founding board member, former vice chair and treasurer.
Martin Luther King III tweeted that he, his wife and his daughter had been able to spend time with his aunt in her final days.
“Aunt Christine embodied what it meant to be a public servant. Like my dad, she spent her life fighting for equality and against racism in America,” he tweeted. “No stranger to adversity, Aunt Christine used the tragedies of the assassinations of her mother and brother to fight for change in America.”
Mrs. 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 degree in economics on the same day Dr. King earned his degree in sociology from Morehouse College.
A decade later, Mrs. Farris returned to Spelman, where she worked for over 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. “As the last of the King siblings, she spent much of her life advocating for equality. She once said that her brother Martin simply gave us the blueprint, but it was our duty ‘to carry it out.’”
Mrs. Farris wrote two children’s books about her life and in 2009, she wrote a memoir, “Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family and My Faith.”