"Having loved a leader, she became a leader," said President Bush

February 08, 2006 08:00 AM

Coretta Scott King’s funeral on Tuesday brought out 10,000 mourners, including four U.S. presidents, numerous members of Congress, veterans of the civil rights movement and songs by Stevie Wonder and Michael Bolton, who gave soaring, gospel-infused performances inside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church – a modern, arena-style megachurch in a suburban Atlanta county that was once a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan but today has one of the most affluent black populations in the country.

“Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband’s legacy, she built her own,” President Bush said. “Having loved a leader, she became a leader, and when she spoke, Americans listened closely.”

Mrs. King died Jan. 30 at age 78 after battling ovarian cancer and the effects of a stroke. She was laid to rest beside the tomb of her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. After the funeral and before Mrs. King’s coffin was placed in her tomb, six white doves were released at the King Center near downtown Atlanta. About 100 onlookers immediately lined up to place flowers on it, reports the Associated Press.

Earlier, former President Clinton urged mourners to follow in her footsteps, honor her husband’s sacrifice and help the couple’s children fulfill their parents’ legacy.

Former President Bush said the “world is a kinder and gentler place because of Coretta Scott King.” And President Carter praised the Kings for their ability to “wage a fierce struggle for freedom and justice and to do it peacefully.”

Over the past several days, more than 160,000 mourners waited to pay their respects and file past Mrs. King’s open casket during viewings at churches and the Georgia Capitol, where Mrs. King became the first woman and the first black person to lie in honor.

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