The oldest child of civil rights leader the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior has died. Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center, says Yolanda Denise King died Tuesday night in Santa Monica, California at the age of 51. Klein says the family does not yet know the cause of death but thinks it might have been a heart problem. King was born in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and was just an infant when her home was bombed during the turbulent civil rights era. As an actress, she has appeared in numerous films and even played Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries “King.” She also appeared in “Ghosts of Mississippi” and founded a production company called Higher Ground Productions. She was also an author and advocate for peace and nonviolence.
She is survived by her sister, the Reverend Bernice King; two brothers, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King; and an extended family. The family says in a statement that arrangements will be announced later. Her death comes more than a year after the death of her mother, Coretta Scott King, who died on January 30, 2006, of complications from ovarian cancer diagnosed after she had a stroke and mild heart attack last fall. She is buried near Martin Luther King Jr., on Auburn Avenue, the street where her husband was born and where he preached. In 2005, the King siblings were at odds about the sale of the King Center to the National Park Service. Yolanda King and brother Dexter voted in favor of pursuing the sale. Martin Luther King III and Bernice King vowed to fight the sale. Martin Luther King III said at the time that he had been removed as chief executive officer and Bernice removed as secretary of the board of directors earlier that year by a board he says was appointed by Dexter King, the board chairman.
Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to the family at this time.