Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King posthumously received a Congressional Gold Medal, during a June 24 ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dr. Bernice A. King, as well as her brothers, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King, joined with Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), and other Senate and House leaders in commemorating the historic occasion.
“What an amazing day. This is the first honor of this magnitude where my parents are honored together, reflecting the powerful partnership they shared in the struggle for freedom and justice,” said Bernice King. “This is so fitting, especially because my mother often said that she did not just marry the man she loved, she married the mission and the movement and understood her role in their partnership.”
The ceremony was held in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Organizers say the Congressional Gold Medal “represents Congress’ highest expression of appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions to our nation.”
“I had the privilege to work with my mother as she helped to design the images and wording for the medal,” said Bernice King. “She was very excited about being honored with such a prestigious award alongside her lifetime partner and was looking forward to receiving it. Well, today she is rejoicing with Daddy in heaven.”
For more than two centuries, the Congressional Gold Medal has been one of the most distinguished honors bestowed by the Congress. Since 1776, the award has also been given to such diverse individuals as George Washington; Mother Theresa; Dorothy Height; Rosa Parks; Thomas Edison; Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; President Nelson Mandela; the Dalai Lama; and many other great leaders.
Dr. Bernice King said the ceremony was a great accomplishment for the entire family and that it was very important for her mother to be honored with her father.
“As Founder of The King Center, my mother was really the driving force that kept my father’s nonviolent leadership philosophy and legacy at the forefront of the consciousness of our nation and the world,” said King. “It was my father who recognized that she was a courageous partner, and acknowledged on many occasions that without her strength and unflagging dedication to the cause, he could never have made it from day to day through the movement.”