|A. D. King|
July 30, 1930|
|Died||July 21, 1969
|Spouse(s)||Naomi Ruth Barber|
|Children||Alveda Celeste King
Alfred King, II (1952–1986)
James B. King
Darlene King (1956–1976)
|Parent(s)||Martin Luther King, Sr. (1899–1984)
Alberta Williams King (1904–1974)
|Relatives||Christine King Farris (sister)
Martin Luther King Jr. (brother)
Alfred Daniel Williams King (July 30, 1930 – July 21, 1969), known as A. D. King, was the younger brother of Martin Luther King, Jr., a famed leader of the Civil Rights Movement. A. D. King was a Baptist minister and a civil rights activist.
Alfred King was born July 30, 1930, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a son of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King, the youngest of their three children (the other two being Willie Christine, born September 11, 1927, and Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929). In contrast to his peacemaking brother, Martin, A. D.—according to his father—was "a little rough at times" and "let his toughness build a reputation throughout our neighborhood". p. 126 Less interested in academics than his siblings, A. D. started a family of his own while still a teenager and attended college later in his life. He was married on June 17, 1950, to Naomi Ruth Barber (born 1932), with whom he had five children: Alveda, Alfred II, Derek, Darlene, and Vernon.
Although as a youth A. D. had strongly resisted his father’s ministerial urgings, he eventually began assisting his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. In 1959, A. D. King graduated from Morehouse College. The same year, he left Ebenezer Baptist to become pastor of Mount Vernon First Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia.
Alfred King was arrested along with King, Jr., and 70 others while participating in an October 1960 lunch-counter sit-in in Atlanta. In 1963, A. D. King became a leader of the Birmingham campaign, while pastoring at First Baptist Church of Ensley in Birmingham, Alabama. On May 11, 1963, King’s house was bombed. In August, after a bomb exploded at the home of a prominent black lawyer in downtown Birmingham, outraged citizens, intent on revenge, poured into the city streets. While rocks were being thrown at gathering policemen and the situation escalated, A. D. King climbed on top of a parked car and shouted to the rioters in an attempt to quell their fury: "My friends, we have had enough problems tonight. If you're going to kill someone, then kill me; ... Stand up for your rights, but with nonviolence." Like his brother, A. D. was a staunch believer in the importance of maintaining nonviolence in direct action campaigns. However, unlike his brother, A. D. remained mostly outside the media’s spotlight. As one of his associates said, "Not being in the limelight never seemed to affect him, but because he stayed in the background, many people never knew that he was deeply involved, too." A.D. tended to stay in his brother's shadow and many people never even knew that Martin Luther King Jr. had a brother. He supported his brother throughout the movement but never took the limelight away from him.
A.D. was most involved in the civil rights activities during the Birmingham riots. Here he played a key role and was arrested multiple times. During Birmingham, A.D.'s house was bombed the night before Mother's Day.
A.D. often traveled with Martin Luther King Jr. and was with him in Memphis on April 4, 1968, when his brother was shot dead. A.D. was in the room directly beneath Martin's at the Lorraine Hotel when the gun blast went off. When he saw his brother lying mortally wounded, he had to be restrained by others because of the shocking and overwhelming sight.
For the last part of his life, he was afflicted by alcohol and depression. In 1965, King moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he became pastor at Zion Baptist Church. While there, King continued to fight for civil rights and was successful in a 1968 campaign for an open housing ordinance. After his brother's assassination in April 1968, there was speculation that A. D. might become the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). A. D., however, made no effort to assume his deceased brother’s role, although he did continue to be active in the Poor People's Campaign and in other work on behalf of SCLC.
After the death of Martin, A. D. King returned to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where in September 1968 he was installed as co-pastor. He was praised by his father as "an able preacher, a concerned, loving pastor".
On July 21, 1969, nine days before his 39th birthday, A. D. King was found dead in the swimming pool at his home. The cause of his death was listed as an accidental drowning. However, it is also speculated that he died from heart problems as two of his children died young of heart attacks and one died at the age 49 of a heart attack.
His father, Martin Luther King, Sr., said in his autobiography, "Alveda had been up the night before, she said, talking with her father and watching a television movie with him. p.192 He'd seemed unusually quiet...and not very interested in the film. But he had wanted to stay up and Alveda left him sitting in an easy chair, staring at the TV, when she went off to bed... I had questions about A.D.'s death and I still have them now. He was a good swimmer. Why did he drown? I don't know – I don't know that we will ever know what happened." Naomi King, his widow, said, "There is no doubt in my mind that the system killed my husband."
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