Christine King Farris, tenured Spelman professor and sibling to MLK, has died

Christine King Farris, the eldest sister of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., attends services at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)

Christine King Farris died Thursday, June 29, at the age of 95. She was the last surviving sibling of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Farris, born in Atlanta in 1927, was the oldest of the three children of Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King. Her brother Martin, who would become Dr. King, was born two years later in 1929.

After his death, Farris continued to represent her brother and his mission throughout her life.

In 2013, Farris addressed a crowd remembering the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. She said she believed Dr. King’s dream had reached far across the U.S. and the world.

“May it continue to thrive and spread and help bring justice, peace and liberation to all humanity,” Farris said.

While committed to her brother’s work, Farris often described the emotional toll of his brother’s assassination. She wouldn’t return to Memphis after retrieving his body.

She told PBS in 2008 those reminders of his murder were everywhere she turned, even after decades.

“There’s no way to get away from it,” Farris said.

Throughout her life, Farris invested heavily in reading and education. She taught the subject as a professor at Spelman College for more than 50 years.

Spelman professor Andrea Lewis took classes from Farris and later became her colleague.

She remembers Farris as a nurturing teacher who held her students to high standards. Farris always showed up to work matching from head to toe, Lewis said, and was a model of excellence on campus.

Lewis said each year before commencement, Spelman would hold faculty receptions. It was then that she could observe all of the women Farris touched or taught over the years.

“It was absolutely a sight to see,” Lewis said. “You had women from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, who are coming and screaming, hugging and loving on Dr. Farris.”

Farris wrote several books reflecting on her historic family and life, including a memoir, “Through It All,” and a children’s book, “My Brother Martin.”

In addition to her brother’s assassination, Farris faced the unexpected deaths of her youngest brother, A.D. King, who died in a drowning accident in 1969 and her mother, Alberta Williams King, who was shot inside the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1974.

Farris married Isaac Farris in 1960. He died in 2017 at the age of 83.