Coretta Scott King, who died this morning from the effects of stroke and ovarian cancer, was a woman thrust onto the world stage through no effort of her own.
When she married the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1953 she no doubt planned to live a quiet life as the wife of a Baptist pastor. Her husband was clearly cut from special cloth from the start and she knew this and admired him for the clearness of his vision and the eloquence of his voice.
During her husband's rise to international fame and influence Coretta kept a quiet profile, raising their children and trying to make life as "normal" as possible for a family frequently the target of death threats. She knew that each day might well be her husband's last. There were so many who wanted him dead.
By God's grace, Dr. King survived until 1968 when a sniper's bullet killed him in Memphis, Tennessee.
Following a time of mourning, Coretta felt the pressure of the Civil Rights Movement to step up and carry on her husband's legacy. Her leadership, while effective and inspiring, was more than anything symbolic of the still considerable influence of her late husband.
It is doubtful that she ever again had any personal identity separate from that of being the widow of the late "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Even so, she carried this heavy burden with grace and dignity. Even though there were many who would have rejoiced if she had fallen in disgrace, she rarely even stumbled and remained standing tall and straight until the end.
She was, for all of America, a role model for being a wife, a mother, a widow and a public figure. She was all this and more; and not just for the African-American community; but for all Americans.