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Pieces of Eight

ECU Compliance Officer Taffye Benson Clayton greets Congressman G.K. Butterfield during ECU’s memorial service honoring Coretta Scott King. Butterfield was the keynote speaker for the event. (Photo by Marc J. Kawanishi)

ECU Ceremony Honors Legacy of Coretta Scott King

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

The ECU community gathered last month to mourn the loss of the first lady of the Civil Rights movement, Coretta Scott King. King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died Jan. 30 at the age of 78.

Campus and civic leaders spoke of her lifelong commitment to the civil rights movement and her selfless effort to continue her husband’s mission by founding the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change.

“Coretta Scott King worked passionately alongside her husband, who led a revolution,” Taffye Benson Clayton, of ECU’s Office of Diversity and Equity, said. “Together they stood courageously leading a movement that made it possible for us to sit together in this room in mutual respect and peace.”

Regina Twine, president of ECU’s Black Student Union, said her generation should continue, as Mrs. King had, to work for peace, justice and equality.

“I’m not too young to understand the mark Coretta Scott King made on the world,” Twine said. “They say behind every strong man is a strong women. Instead of giving up, Mrs. King embraced the dream and continued the fight.”

Marilyn Sheerer, interim vice-chancellor for university advancement and dean of the College of Education at ECU, said Mrs. King exuded a quiet serenity. “Coretta Scott King has been a moral compass, helping us make our way through these challenges,” Sheerer said. “She not only maintained her husband’s legacy; she expanded it and became a symbol in her own right.”

Congressman G.K. Butterfield, the keynote speaker, discussed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act, and noted that Martin Luther King, Jr., had always sought refuge in his wife.

“If you talk about Martin Luther King Jr., you must also talk about his wife, Coretta Scott King,” he said.

Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance, said he marched for civil rights as a student in Oregon, but noted that the political climate of a college in the Northwest didn’t take much courage to do so.

“Can you imagine the courage it took to march in Alabama?” he said. “Can you imagine the courage it took to watch your husband be the object of such hatred? Can you imagine?”

Gilbert said that leaders at ECU continue to the legacy of the Civil Rights movement, particularly through education.

“Coretta Scott King always spoke of a need for justice and opportunity and she knew the key to opportunity is education,” he said. “I know Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King are looking down to see what we do with this opportunity. It is up to the ECU community to make them proud.”

This page originally appeared in the March 10, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/archives.cfm.