6 years after MLK assassination, his mother was gunned down, too

Martin Luther King's widow Coretta Scott King; his mother, Alberta King; and his sister,...
Martin Luther King's widow Coretta Scott King; his mother, Alberta King; and his sister, Christine Farris, at Morehouse College in Atlanta on April 9, 1968. (Bob Fitch Photography Archive, Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries)(WTVY News 4)
Published: Apr. 4, 2018 at 10:37 AM CDT
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Six years after an assassin cut down Rev. Martin Luther King, a man walked into Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and killed the late civil rights leader's mother as she played the organ for morning services.

Alberta Williams King's death is an often-forgotten chapter in the legacy of the civil rights struggle.

On June 30, 1974, Alberta King had just finished playing "The Lord's Prayer" on the organ at Ebenezer Baptist when a man shouted, "I'm taking over here!"

A young black man bolted to the pulpit and pulled out a gun, according to a recounting by Atlanta magazine. The man, later identified as Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. of Ohio, fired his gun, hitting Alberta King, church deacon Edward Boykin and congregation member Jimmie Mitchell.

Mrs. King and Boykin were taken to the hospital where they pronounced dead. Mrs. King was 69-years-old.

The attack occurred less than 100 yards from where her son was buried.

Chenault said he was on a mission to kill all Christians and his original target was MLK Sr., considering black pastors a threat to black people. He claimed insanity in his trial but was convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair. His sentence was later changed to life in prison, due in part to the wishes of the surviving members of the King family, who opposed capital punishment.

Chenault died in prison in 1995 at age 44.

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