A mother’s influence

Eighty years ago today, Alberta Christine Williams King gave birth to a son in this home on Auburn Ave. in Atlanta. The son’s birth will be recognized as a national holiday on Monday.

His mother, however, does not get the public attention due. Mrs. Alberta King had a lifelong close relationship with historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Her father, the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, was Ebenezer’s pastor until his death in 1931, at which time her husband, Martin Luther King Sr., succeeded him.

The young couple lived in the upstairs of the Williams home (above) where Mrs. Alberta King gave birth to children Christine, Martin Jr. and A.D.

When Rev. King Sr. became Ebenezer’s pastor, Mrs. King became choir director and organist. She was a vital part of the congregation and an influential woman to many.

Writing about his mother, M.L. King Jr. credited her for “setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life.”

She was also a woman who endured more than her fair share of pain and loss. Her son Martin, of course, was gunned down in Memphis in 1968 as the central figure in a national struggle for civil rights.

The next year, her other son A.D. King — a minister and civil-rights activist in his own right — died in a swimming pool accident. Then Mrs. King’s own life came to a tragic end in 1974 when she was shot and killed while playing the organ at church. A young deranged man had entered Ebenezer and committed the horrific crime. She was 71.

The beautiful pipe organ in the current Ebenezer sanctuary — across the street from the historic church building now under restoration — was dedicated to the memory of Alberta Williams King.

On Monday, the nation will rightly honor the remarkable life of Martin Luther King Jr. On this actual birth-day, we should remember the one who brought him into the world and helped shape his life.


  1. Great post about a much deserving person. Honestly – I had not thought about Mrs. King in quite a while. Thanks for reminding me about her. I asked my students to remember all civil rights activists as they reflect on King.

  2. To this tribute to Martin’s mother I would add the last paragraph of Marshall Frady’s short Penguin bio of King.

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