August 26, 2005

King’s widow faces long hospital stay after stroke

By Paul Simao

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain
civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., faces an extended
stay in an Atlanta hospital, where she is recovering from a
stroke that left her partly paralyzed, her doctor said on

King, 78, has been unable to walk or speak at length since
August 16, when she fell ill in her Atlanta home.

The civil rights matriarch will remain at Piedmont Hospital
for at least another month to receive physical and speech
therapy, said Maggie Mermin, her personal physician.

"She's quite comfortable and her spirits are good," Mermin
told a news conference at the hospital. "This is a pretty rough
thing she's going through."

Merman said she was hopeful King would recover some use of
the right side of her body, which was affected by the stroke.

Although she curtailed her public appearances in recent
months, King remains an icon in the black community for the
role she played in the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s
and 1960s.

She continued to fight for equality long after her husband
was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee, by a sniper on April 4,
1968 while he was supporting striking sanitation workers.

His widow quickly created a memorial in the Martin Luther
King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, with
archives containing more than 2,000 King speeches, a complex
built around the King crypt and an eternal flame.

She also campaigned successfully for a federal holiday
celebrating the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's birthday,
conducted annual "King Week" observances, restaged the 1963
march on Washington during which King delivered his "I Have a
Dream" speech, and promoted his philosophy of nonviolence.

In 1998, King's widow broke 30 years of silence on the
subject of her husband's assassination, saying she did not
believe James Earl Ray, the man sentenced to 99 years in prison
for her husband's slaying, had acted alone.

King said she believed the assassination was the work of a
high-level government conspiracy, as Ray contended, and pushed
for the creation of a federal "truth" commission to investigate
the matter.

Ray died in prison in 1998 at age 70.

In recent years, King has been active in the struggle to
control the spread of AIDS in the black community, urging it to
be more tolerant of gays. She also has criticized U.S.
involvement in Iraq.