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Coretta Scott King, who died Tuesday, held firmly to her faith as one of the nation's most famous pastor's wives before becoming a civil rights leader in her own right.

Leaders with connections to the King family and the civil rights movement recalled how the 78-year-old widow of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., blended a commitment to her marriage with a determination to achieve justice for others.

Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, said he asked her how she handled having a husband who was away so often, working on movement causes.

"She said, 'Let me tell you something, I did not just marry a man. I married a destiny,'" he recalled.

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, director of the African-American studies program at Colby College, said the significance of the Kings' partnership will continue to be a subject of research and education.

"She went into that marriage with the gift of her own progressive education and her own skills and talents and she used them marvelously for our freedom," said Gilkes, who teaches in Waterville, Maine.

The widow of the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968 had her own experiences with racism that led her to strive for justice along with her husband.

Since Coretta Scott King grew up in rural Alabama, she "probably saw more rigid, vile prejudice and discrimination than did King 'cause King grew up in the city," said Bishop Woodie W. White, a retired United Methodist bishop who lives in Atlanta, the hometown of Martin Luther King Jr.

White, who attended meetings with Martin Luther King Jr., to plan a civil rights march in Detroit months before the 1963 March on Washington, writes an annual "Dear Martin" column updating the status of race relations.

"One of the ...

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