People around the world are familiar with the name, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and most know of his wife, Coretta Scott King.
But, unknown to many, is another member of the King family—Naomi Barber King.
Naomi King was the wife of Dr. King’s younger brother, the Rev. Alfred Daniel "A.D." King.
Often those who interact with Naomi King are surprised to learn that she is a member of the King family. A quiet, unassuming woman, Naomi King has a glowing outer and inner beauty.
She is not one to boast of being a member of the King family or to call attention to herself. She has flawless skin and beautifully coiffed silver hair.
Many who often see her at the Harriett G. Darnell Senior Facility or at the Quality Living Services Center (QLS), may not know her by name, but they recognize her as the butterfly lady - the woman who always wears butterfly accessories. King wears butterfly shaped bracelets and pins and always as clips in her hair.
Although she has been seen at most Martin Luther King celebrations and commemorative events, Naomi often has taken a back seat, leaving the spotlight to her late sister-in- law Coretta or to other members of the King family.
When asked why she seems to always be in the background during King celebration activities, King said,“ Yes, I’m in the background, but God knows why, and God understands and He has taken care of me."
While the attention has been on others in the King family, Naomi King has quietly been on a quest to see that her husband is not forgotten. She readily speaks of his contributions towards improving the lives of African-Americans. T
his is because Rev. A.D. King, was a civil rights activist in his own right. There were many similarities between the two brothers. Like his brother Martin, A.D. King graduated from Morehouse College, pastored various churches, led protest demonstrations, and served as assistant pastor at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church with their father, Rev. Martin “Daddy” King, Sr.
Like his revered brother, Rev. A. D. King often had his and his family’s lives threatened. While serving as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ensley in Birmingham, Ala., Rev. A.D. King led the Birmingham campaign.
As a result of his activism,his family’s home was bombed. When he pastored a church in Louisville, Kentucky, the church was also bombed. And just one year after the assassination of his beloved brother in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, Rev. A.D. King was found dead at his home lying in the family swimming pool.
The year was 1969. Although it was ruled an accidental drowning, some family members question that finding. He was known to have been an excellent swimmer.
Naomi King and her husband Alfred Daniel King, were the proud parents of five children. At the height of the civil rights movement, Naomi was often at home tending to them - Alveda , Alfred II, Derek I, Darlene, and Vernon.
But she also found time for civil rights causes. When asked if she participated in the struggle for civil rights, she responds, "I was active from 1955 to this present date!"
She also served admirably as First Lady of the various churches that her husband pastored, assisting him in the various ministries which he started. During his short tenure at Ebeneezer, he organized the “A.D. Williams King Chapel for Children - a ministry which Naomi supports 100%, because it reflects their shared love for children.
Their son, Derek King I is a minister like his late father. Her daughter, Dr. Alveda King served in the Ga. State Legislature. Three of their offspring- Alfred, Darlene, and Vernon are now deceased.
Naomi King currently resides in southwest Atlanta. She continues to focus on her husband’s contributions and legacy as an activist and as a minister.
A documentary account of Rev. A.D. King’s accomplishments in the area of civil rights is now available on film. The film debuted in January of 2010 at the M.L. King Chapel on Morehouse College’s campus. Her daughter Alveda was instrumental in the development of this film.
When queried as to how her husband should be remembered, Naomi King says, “ He was an unsung hero, a God-chosen minister, a wonderful husband, devoted father, brother, uncle, friend, and so much more. I loved Alfred Daniel Williams King.” When she is not promoting her husband’s work,she enjoys participating in games of duplicate bridge and Pinochle at the Darnell center and at QLS. She is a dedicated member of Ebenezer Baptist Church and although she attends most activities there, she also enjoys visiting other churches. She readily shares her belief in God’s goodness.
She has a calm manner which can often seem deceptive. When it appeared that a player wanted to make a dubious play during a bridge game, she stared the offender down and exclaimed, “Beat me at this game all you want to, but let’s play it right brother!”
Butterflies are some of God’s more gentle creatures. Naomi King, too, reflects God’s gentleness and gracefulness. If being the wife of a King means having any privileges, she is privileged to share and continue to speak about the legacy of that other King, her husband, Rev. A.D. King.
Editor's Note: (More information can be found about Rev. Alfred Daniel King and Naomi King at www.adkingfoundation.com).