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Country mourns death of civil rights legend Coretta Scott King, 78

Across the country people are mourning the death of Coretta Scott King, wife of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who died in her sleep early Tuesday morning at an alternative medicine clinic in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Doctors at the clinic say the cause of death was respiratory failure.

Just weeks ago, King made her first appearance in over a year at an awards ceremony on the eve of her late husband's birthday. She arrived in a wheelchair, smiling but not speaking as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

King was born April 27, 1927 in Perry County, AL. As a child, King picked cotton to help her family through the depression. She graduated as Valedictorian of her high school class. Later, she worked as a waitress to earn her way through Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH.

King later studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music when a friend introduced her to a young minister from Boston University. Eighteen months later, in 1953, Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr. were married.

King became a figure of the civil rights movement in her own right, standing by her husband in times of crisis and in peace. After his death she founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta to combat racism, hunger and unemployment. She also pushed politicians to make her husband's birthday a national holiday, achieving success in 1986.

"Like all great champions she learned to function with pain and keep serving. She kept marching. She did not flinch," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with King Jr. when he was assasinated in 1968.

Mourners gathered Tuesday to honor King at her husband's mausoleum and at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change. She is survived by her four children Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter Scott and Bernice Albertine.