Family, top lawmakers gather for farewell to Christine King Farris memorial at Georgia capitol

Christine King Farris lying at state on July 14, 2023 at the Georgia State Capitol, with portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. overlooking.

Listen up: Members of the community gather at Georgia state capitol to say their final goodbyes 


Flanking a rose-ladened casket, rows of lawmakers and loved ones gathered to remember the life of Christine King Farris, sibling of Martin Luther King Jr., as her body was lying in state Friday at the state Capitol.

King Farris, who was described as a loving mother, a caring educator and the eldest sister of Georgia’s iconic civil rights leader, died June 29, at the age of 95. On Friday, she was honored as a state hero for her work in the civil rights movement, and for her seasoned career as a professor at Spelman College.

Sen. Raphael Warnock and Vernon Jones holding hands in pray as they commemorate the life and work of Georgia Civil Rights leader, Christine King Harris. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Though much of her work did not receive the same spotlight as her younger brother throughout her life, many dignitaries, including Republicans Gov. Brian Kemp and former state Rep. Vernon Jones, and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock stepped up to the microphone to shed light on her contributions not only to the state of Georgia, but to the country as a whole.

She is one of the few unelected Georgians to lie in state under the Gold Dome, a select group that includes King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

“It is an honor for Marty and I to be with you as we take time to celebrate the life of Dr. Christine King Farris, a beloved Georgian, a history maker, a devoted sister to one of Georgia’s most celebrated sons, a proud community leader, a respected educator, and certainly a devoted wife, mother and grandmother to the King and Farris families,” Kemp said. 

Former Dean of the Georgia state House, Calvin Smyre, reflected on King Farris’ work at the Capitol along with her commitment to improving racial inequality.

“I’ve worked with her and she’s been involved in a lot of activities at the King Center and at the Capitol,” Smyre said. “And, in fact, when we first formed the Martin Luther King Holiday Commission, she and Coretta Scott King supported us in that effort.”

“She was one that I know was committed to bettering quality of life and uplifting young people to seek a higher education,” Smyre said.

A portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. overlooking his sister’s casket was a reminder that the ceremony was not only a tribute to King Farris’ life, but also represented the reckoning of Georgia’s troubled history of bigotry and intimidation, serving to attempt to right a wrong from many generations ago. 

Lester Maddox, Georgia’s governor at the time of the slain civil rights leader’s death, refused to allow the civil rights icon to lie in state at the Capitol, or to allow state workers to take time off to attend his funeral, said Georgia House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat.

Isaac Newton Farris Jr. honoring his mother Christine King Farris on the steps of Georgia Capitol. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

“When a governor 55 years ago closed the doors of opportunity and justice, when he compelled Georgia state workers to continue to work and not mourn or acknowledge the death of our King, she epitomized being her brother’s keeper.”

King Farris’ son, Isaac Newton Farris Jr., told the audience that not only did his mother and the former Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor have a rightful place within the Capitol, but in Georgia history as well.

“We are honoring Georgia history here today. This goes beyond my mother. This is Georgia history,” Farris said. “Not Georgia Black history, not Georgia Democratic history, not Georgia Republican history. This is Georgia history. Five generations of it, here, in Georgia.”


Ross Williams contributed to this report.




The post Family, top lawmakers gather for farewell to Christine King Farris memorial at Georgia capitol appeared first on Georgia Recorder.

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