Christine King Farris, the last living sibling of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died.
The tragic news was confirmed by the family and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. No cause of death has been revealed.
“Our family mourns the passing of my aunt, Willie Christine King Farris. As the eldest sibling of my father, Martin Luther King, Jr., 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,” wrote Martin Luther King III on Twitter.
He continued, “She defied the odds that held back too many marginalized communities—going on to become a civil rights leader and acclaimed author. No stranger to adversity, Aunt Christine used the tragedies of the assassinations of her mother and brother to fight for change in America. Arndrea, Yolanda and I were lucky to spent time with her in her final days, and we know the Lord is welcoming her with open arms, alongside my parents and the rest of her family. We will truly miss my Aunt, but know that she leaves behind a tremendous legacy that will outlive us all and we commit to carrying that legacy on for future generations.”
— The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center (@TheKingCenter) June 29, 2023
Born on September 11, 1927, Farris was considered to be the delicate, but strong member of their family, according to her father, Martin Luther King Sr.’s memoir. “Now, sometimes when I recall those frightening first days of Christine’s life, I feel that the illness, as severe as it was, may have strengthened her for the inordinately heavy responsibilities which would become a daily part of her adult years,” he wrote.
She graduated from Spelman College in 1948, the same year Dr. King graduated from Morehouse. She later earned her master’s degree from Columbia University and went on to teach at Spelman for 48 years before retiring in 2014.
During her tenure, she witnessed her mother being murdered in church while playing the organ in 1974. This tragedy came after the deaths of her brothers. Following Dr. King’s death, Christine became a founding board member of the nonprofit that Coretta Scott King started in 1968.
Farris penned several books, including My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which depicts how she built her own successful career while navigating through the tragedy associated with her family.
Farris is survived by her children, grandchild, niece, and nephew.