Coretta Scott King, who died late on Monday at age 78, passed away in Mexico, where she was seeking alternative treatment for ovarian cancer, friends and family are saying.
“Mrs. King was in Mexico for observation and consideration of treatment for ovarian cancer,” a spokeswoman for the first lady of the Civil Rights movement, tells Reuters. “She was considered terminal by physicians in the United States. She and the family wanted to explore other options.”
Wednesday morning, the body of Mrs. King, accompanied by her children, was returned to Atlanta. Funeral arrangement have yet to be announced.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that King died at Hospital Santa Monica, a health center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, where many Americans seek alternative and sometimes-controversial treatments. The hospital declined comment.
“Her daughter was with her at the time she passed,” said Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., pastor for King’s youngest child, Bernice.
Mrs. King was last seen in public on Jan. 14 at a dinner marking the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, where she received a standing ovation from a crowd of 1,500 people.
Last fall, reports the Journal-Constitution, Mrs. King had been told she had ovarian cancer, a diagnosis she faced with her usual grace, courage and determination, say her admirers.
Tuesday night, President George W. Bush began his State of the Union address by praising King, drawing a standing ovation.
“Today our nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream,” Bush said. “Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken from her so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.”
Earlier in the day, former President Jimmy Carter called her “a mainstay of the movement for nonviolent political change,” and former President Bill Clinton said Mrs. King was “a giant in the fight for equal rights for all Americans.”
Joseph Lowery, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest aides who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the slain civil rights leader, told a news conference in Atlanta that her memory will live on in the hearts of people who love liberty.