Christine King Farris, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister, died at the age of 95. Her niece, the Rev. Bernice King, issued a statement announcing her death on Thursday. Farris was the last living sibling of civil rights legend Martin Luther King, but she was a strong educator and civil rights pioneer in her own right, spending most of her life pushing for equality.
Farris helped her sister-in-law Coretta Scott King establish the King Center, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to “empower people to create a just, humane, equitable, and peaceful world by applying Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology.” She was the Center’s Vice Chair and Treasurer.
According to The New York Times, Farris took over as conductor of a commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on King’s birthday in 2007, after Coretta Scott King died. She was present at the church in January when President Joe Biden spoke in honor 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.
Farris was born Willie Christine King on September 11, 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Christine Williams King. She graduated from Spelman College and obtained two master’s degrees in education from Columbia University before serving as an associate professor of education and director of a learning resources center at Spelman for 50 years.
She stood by her brother King as he sacrificed his life for civil rights. Farris marched with him in Alabama for the March for Voting Rights in 1965 and again in Mississippi for the March Against Fear in 1966. Her brother King was assassinated within two years. Her other brother, Alfred Daniel King, drowned in his swimming pool in 1969, and her mother, Alberta King, was murdered at a church session in 1974. As the only survivor in her family, Farris used the traumas she endured to fight for change in the United States, according to Martin Luther King III, King’s oldest son.
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.