In 1964, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (right) takes a Sunday family walk in Atlanta with his father the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. (left), son Dexter, sister Christine King Farris, wife Coretta Scott King holding daughter Bernice, son Martin Luther King III and daughter Yolanda. Copyright by Max Scheler Estate, Hamburg Germany.

“Every now and then, I have to chuckle as I realize there are people who actually believe ML just appeared. They think he simply happened, that he appeared fully formed, without context, ready to change the world. Take it from his big sister, that’s simply not the case.”

Christine King Farris, excerpt from “Through It All”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was born in Atlanta, GA, to Martin Luther King, Sr (affectionately known as “Daddy King”) and Alberta King (affectionately known as “Mama King”) on January 15, 1929. The love story of King Sr. and Alberta King began on “Sweet” Auburn Avenue. Alberta Williams would sit on the porch of 501 Auburn Avenue reading or enjoying the day when one day Michael King met her for the first time. After eight years of courtship, the couple married on Thanksgiving Day 1926. 

But, who are Alberta Williams and Micheal King? 

Alberta King, whose birth name is Alberta Christine Williams, was born on September 13, 1904. Her parents were Reverend Adam Daniel Williams and Jennie Celeste Williams. Alberta was the only child of her parents, and her paternal lineage can be researched through Willis and Lucrecia Williams. 

Willis Williams was enslaved at the Williams Plantation in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia, by William Nelson Williams. Willis was a minister, and his wife, Lucretia, attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Penfield before the Civil War. Their son, Adam Daniel Williams, was born on January 2, 1863, the day after the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation. With the destiny to be a preacher like his father, Willis. Adam began his journey by performing funerals for his friends’ pets within the community of Scull Shoals, a rural community on the Oconee River. In April 1888, Alberta’s father earned his license to preach. 

Adam Williams married Jennie C. Parks in October of 1899 in Atlanta, GA, and eventually, he became pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Among other accomplishments, he was the founder of the Atlanta, Georgia, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and one of the organizers of the National Baptist Convention in September 1895. Eight years later, Jennie and Adams Williams gave birth to Alberta Williams on September 13, 1903. 

Alberta Williams attended high school at Spelman Seminary and received her teaching certificate at Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute. Later in 1938, Williams continued her studies at Morris Brown College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. Continuing her mother’s legacy, she founded the Ebenezer choir and was an organist at every Sunday and church event from 1932 to 1972. Her love of serving led her to also become an organist for the Women’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention. She was an active mother and active in the YWCA, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Mama King used her skills to tutor her husband, Martin Luther King, Sr., through college, teach her children, and many instrumentalists and singers.   

Outside of all her significant accomplishments as a mother, teacher, and musician, Alberta Williams King unknowingly changed the course of the world with her marriage to Martin Luther King, Sr.   

“One may ask at this point, why discuss such factors as the above in a paper dealing with one’s religious development? The answer to this question lies in the fact that the above factors were highly significant in determining my religious attitudes. It is quite easy for me to think of a God of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central and where lovely relationships were ever present. It is quite easy for me to think of the universe as basically friendly mainly because of my uplifting hereditary and environmental circumstances. It is quite easy for me to lean more toward optimism than pessimism about human nature mainly because of my childhood experiences.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr 

Martin Luther King has become known to many as “Daddy King.” However, his birth name was Micheal King. He was born in Stockbridge, GA, on December 19, 1899, to his mother and father, Delia and James Albert King. He was the oldest son of seven children born into the King family. 

James and Delia were sharecroppers. They married in 1895 and lived in various parts of Henry and Clayton counties. Growing up, Daddy King attended the Stockbridge Colored School. Leaving Stockbridge for Atlanta in 1918, He worked multiple jobs on the railroads, in an auto tire shop, loading bales of cotton, and driving a truck. King eventually completed his high school education at Bryant Preparatory School. In 1926, King started his ministerial degree at the Morehouse School of Religion. 

King, Sr. was an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement, not just in Atlanta but in the State of Georgia. Becoming one of the head leaders in ending the Jim Crow Era. King Sr. also became the head of the NAACP in Atlanta and the Civic and Political League. Continuing his leadership in civil rights, Daddy King would fight for equal teachers’ salaries in Atlanta. Martin Luther King, Sr.’s ministry was driven by education and political advocacy for the Black community.

He came to head Ebenezer Baptist Church after the death of his father-in-law, A.D. Williams, in 1931. With the help of his wife Alberta, The King’s family was able to restore and grow Ebenezer Baptist Church during the Great Depression. 

The bond between Mama and Daddy King can be seen through the lives of their three children Willie Christine King Farris, Martin Luther King Jr., and Alfred Daniel Williams King. The legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are the legacies of his maternal and paternal grandparents and his parents, Alberta and Martin Luther King, Sr. May we always honor and remember them. 

Alberta Williams King and Martin Luther King, Sr. are interred at the South-View Cemetery in Atlanta.