MLK and Coretta paid for Julia Roberts’ hospital bill when she was born, but few know this

Mildred Europa Taylor October 29, 2022
Julia Roberts and MLK. Photos: Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection/Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Known for famous movies such as “Steel Magnolias”, “Pretty Woman”, “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “Sleeping With The Enemy”, American actress Julia Roberts was one of the few bankable female stars of the 1990s and 2000s.

Coming from a very creative family, she learned the basic details of acting from her parents, who were both well-known actors and playwrights. Her parents, Betty and Walter Roberts, were founders of the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop in Georgia. Before giving birth to Roberts, they also had a children’s acting school.

Despite widespread racism in the U.S. in the 1960s, their children’s acting school welcomed both Black and white kids. And thanks to this, the Roberts family would meet another famous family: the Kings. Yolanda King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, became a member of the children’s acting school, with Walter Roberts becoming her personal acting coach, teaching her all she needed to know to succeed in the acting field.

Then the unpleasant incident happened during a play that premiered in 1965. History says actors from the school were selected to play the role of a couple. Problems arose when Yolanda was chosen to play the romantic interest of another actor who was white. People would have none of that. A man went as far as blowing up a car outside of the theater during the production. That same man entered the theatre and started throwing things at the actors onstage, putting lives in danger.

And so to say thank you to Walter Roberts for protecting his daughter Yolanda during the commotion, King and his wife paid the hospital bills of the Roberts family when their daughter Julia Roberts was born on October 28, 1967.

Julia Roberts has never forgotten this kind deed. She told Gayle King during an interview that, “the King family paid for my hospital bills. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta. Obviously, because my parents couldn’t pay for the hospital bill.”

She continued: “My parents had a theater school in Atlanta called the Actors and Writers Workshop. And one day, Coretta Scott King called my mother and asked if her kids could be part of the school because they were having a hard time finding a place that would accept her kids. And my mom is like, ‘Sure, come on over’. And so they just all became friends and they helped us out of a jam.”

This act of kindness by the King family motivated Julia Roberts to use her wealth to support the needy including children. She is known for her support of charities including UNICEF, Red Cross, and American Foundation for AIDS Research. And to raise awareness for threatened species of wildlife, she narrated the documentary In the Wild: Orangutans with Julia Roberts in 1998, which appeared on American television.

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