Interview with Coretta Scott King



OK, that was a roll-out on 193. I'm also going to sound roll, sound roll 1147, 20/85, Eyes on the Prize. Sound roll 1147. Camera roll 194. Reference tone. Continuation of interview with Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

Coretta Scott King:

I was very depressed about Martin being in jail and being so far away, and knowing I couldn't get to see him in less than a whole day's journey and back and, and suddenly I got this very unexpected but uplifting telephone call from Senator John F. Kennedy. And he was campaigning and was at O'Hare Airport, and called, and said, "Hello, Mrs. King, this is Senator Kennedy and I'm calling because I wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. How are you? I understand you are expecting your third child." I was amazed you know, that he even said third child. Someone of course had to tell him, but anyway, it was a very personal touch, and he said, "I'm thinking about you and your husband, and I know this must be very difficult for you. If there's anything I can do to be of help, I want you to please feel free to call on me." And I didn't quite know what to say, except to thank him, and say, "Well, I really appreciate this and if there is anything that you can do, I would deeply appreciate it." ** And of course knowing the implications of all of this, he, he was—it was toward the, the end of the month of October and the election was just a few days away, the presidential election, and I didn't quite know what to make of it. Very shortly afterwards, a reporter called and said, "I understand the Senator Kennedy called you, what did he say?" And I said, "Well why don't you ask him?" I said, "You know, I really don't feel free to tell you. Why don't you ask him?" So anyway, my father-in-law and I were on our way to see a lawyer, because we were trying to figure out a way to get Martin out of jail legally, 'cause we knew the judge had discretionary powers, and the only legal recourse was probably through the Board of Corrections. In the meantime, I called, when I returned from this visit to the lawyer, I returned, I made a call to Senator Kennedy's campaign, and spoke to a person that I knew, Harris Wofford, who was working with Senator Kennedy. And I told him about this call and asked him his advice. He said, "Oh, tell them," he said, "There were a lot of reporters around, and there were, you know, some of the human rights people. And so, it's all right, you just tell them what happened." So then I started receiving more phone calls, and of course, I did report it, but that call was a very important call. I think it, it did turn the tide, because Martin was released from jail, in, I guess in about…the next day, actually, the next day. This was on the day that he had been taken to Reedsville, that I got the call, and the next day he was released, late in the day. And then we went to a mass meeting that night, as we usually did, to go to our churches to have a meeting, and Daddy King said "You know, this was the first time we'd had a Catholic to run for President." And most black people were like most other Americans about Catholics, I guess. We were not sure about Nixon, but Nixon had befriended a lot of people. And so Daddy King said, "I have a sackful of votes, and I'm going to take them to the White House and place them at Senator Kennedy's feet." And of course, essentially what he was saying, that is, he was going to vote for him. And actually, I think the difference in that election, which was very close, had to do with Martin's—his intercession in Martin's case, because Senator Kennedy won by a very narrow margin, less that 100,000 votes.