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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family relationship to Martin Luther King Jr.

Josephine Clement describes the relationship of her family to that of Martin Luther King Jr. while she was growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. Clement explains how her sister and King were close childhood friends and how her father had predicted King would become a persuasive preacher. The family friendship continued into later years and she describes how King spoke at her father's funeral later on.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I can remember my grandmother talking about Reverend A. D. Williams, who was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the father of Alberta Williams, who married Martin Luther King, Senior. I knew her - Miss Alberta, we used to call her - she was a woman of great gentility and culture, refinement. Not particularly attractive, but well-educated, well-versed. King, on the other hand, was nice-looking, but a diamond in the rough. He came up from some little country town, Woodstock, or someplace like that, in Georgia.
Are you talking about Daddy King?
Senior, right. Married the daughter of this minister, to whom he was assistant. The children in that family were younger than I was. But M.L. was - that's Martin Luther King, Jr. - was along with my sister June, and they were very close friends - not romantically - they went through school together, and always maintained a very close relationship. And we all lived in the same general neighborhood. They lived in the mother's home, the Reverend and Mrs. Williams's home, because they had this one daughter, and she lived with them after they were married. But then the Kings moved about a block from us, and after he and Coretta married, they lived in the Wheeler home, which was on the next street behind us.
John Leonidas Wheeler?
Right, he had died, and Mrs. Wheeler had come here. And she lived right around the corner; John got a house for her and ?'s sister. And of course my mother had come here; they were friends and able to see each other here. He lived in the Wheeler home (that was before the city took it over; all that area's cleared out now - urban renewal), and I was passing by one day - I think it was the last time I ever saw him - and stopped to chat with him, and he came out. He had his right hand behind his back, and he held out his left hand, and he apologized for extending his left hand. He had in his right hand the charred remnant of a cross that had been burned in his yard. And he was out there cleaning it up the next day, very nonchalant. But my father saw him grow up, and heard him preach, and just became crazy about him, and predicted big things for this young man. And the attraction seemed to have been mutual. In fact, I have heard some phrases that M. L. used that my father used, that I think he got from him. But there was always the agreement that he would come when my father died, and participate in his funeral. He was up in Cape Cod, vacationing, when Daddy died. And he took a plane out right away, and he came, and he offered prayer at his funeral.