Christine King Farris, the sister of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has died at the age of 95. Her niece, the Rev. Bernice King, announced her death in a statement on Thursday. Farris was the last living sibling of civil rights icon King but she was solid in her own right as an educator and civil rights leader, spending much of her life advocating for equality.
Farris worked to promote King’s legacy by helping her sister-in-law Coretta Scott King establish the King Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “empower people to create a just, humane, equitable and peaceful world by applying Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology.” She served as Vice Chair and Treasurer of the Center.
And in 2007 after Coretta Scott King had died, Farris replaced her as the conductor of a commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on King’s birthday, according to The New York Times. She was at the church this past January when President Joe Biden spoke in recognition of her brother King.
“Jill and I are saddened to learn of her peaceful passing today in Atlanta. We send our condolences to the King family as our Nation mourns her life of faith, service, and grace,” Biden said in a statement Thursday.
Born Willie Christine King on Sept. 11, 1927, in Atlanta, Farris was the first child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Christine Williams King. She graduated from Spelman College and earned two master’s degrees in education from Columbia University before working at Spelman for 50 years as an associate professor of education and the director of a learning resources center.
She supported her brother King as he risked his life doing civil rights work. Farris was with him in 1965 for the March for Voting Rights in Alabama and joined him also for the March Against Fear in Mississippi in 1966. In two years, her brother King was assassinated. Her other brother Alfred Daniel King also drowned in his swimming pool in 1969 and her mother, Alberta King was assassinated in 1974 during a church service. Becoming the lone survivor in her family, Farris used the tragedies she experienced to fight for change in the U.S., Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of King, said.
Farris, who married Isaac Newton Farris and had two children, 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,” the Associated Press reported. The activist and educator also wrote a memoir, “Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family and My Faith” in 2009.