Born in Dothan, Alabama in 1931, Mrs. Naomi Ruth Barber King was destined to become a woman of quiet dignity, strength and support to her husband, her family and the communities around her. Naomi would come to walk in the grace and distinction of her beloved butterflies, and acquire the noted title of the "Butterfly Queen."
Like the butterfly, Mrs. King brings beauty and joy to everyone around her. Colorful and talented, she uses her creativity to handle the most difficult tasks, and manages to put those near her at ease in the process. "Jesus is my anchor, and I praise God for His love and blessings," she often proclaims.
In the early days of her life, Naomi was raised by her mother Bessie Barber. They moved to Atlanta to "make a better living" for themselves. "Mama Bessie" spared nothing for the upbringing of her daughter. Thanks to the generosity of her mother’s employers, Naomi wore the finest clothes, observed the most admired social graces and received the best education possible for her times.
Bessie and Naomi joined Ebenezer Baptist Church and began to grow spiritually under the pastorate of Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. and his wife, Mrs. Alberta Williams King. Naomi got to know their children, and caught the eye of their youngest son, A. D. As a young woman, Naomi was charming, graceful, willowy and beautiful. She stood out in a crowd, and was often selected by local clothing stores as a preferred fashion model, earning for her the distinct honor of being featured in shop windows and circulars right along with "white" counterparts. Later, photographs of Naomi and her children would also appear prominent Atlanta photographers' galleries.
In 1949, King entered Spelman College, where she spent a year studying French before marrying A.D. Williams King, Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and youngest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., in 1950. She later attended the University of Alabama and studied interior design. She would have five children: Alveda C. King; Alfred D.W. King III(deceased); Esther Darlene King (deceased);Reverend Derek B. King of Indianapolis, Indiana and Reverend Vernon King (deceased) of Charlotte, North Carolina.
King lived most of her life as a mother and First Lady. She brought musical concerts, women’s enrichment programs, and tools for living to her husband’s congregations. Together, she and her husband supported Martin Luther King, Jr., when, in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama; at the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957; when students in Greensboro, North Carolina, launch the sit-in movement in 1960; through the Birmingham campaign of 1963; during 1963’s “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”; and throughout 1965’s campaign to vote in Selma.
Toward the end of the campaign in Birmingham, on May 11, 1963, a bomb destroyed the Gaston Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was staying, and another significantly destroyed the home of Naomi and A.D. King. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. This tragedy was soon followed by the death of King’s husband, A.D., in 1969; on July 21, King and her children were vacationing in Nassau when A.D. drowned in their home swimming pool but the family believed that he was murdered.
On July 30, 1974, King’s mother-in-law, Alberta Christine Williams King, was murdered by deranged gunman Marcus Chenault as she played the Lord’s Prayer at Ebenezer Church. In 1976, King’s younger daughter, Darlene died while jogging from an apparent heart attack, and ten years later, her son Al died while playing basketball. Despite these losses, King has kept her husband’s memory alive through her establishment of the A.D. King Foundation in 2008 with the primary focus on youth/women empowerment and nonviolent social change strategies as a way of life and entrepreneurship as the center core.
Mrs. King holds awards and special recognitions, such as recipient of the S. C. L. C. Rosa Parks Freedom Award, Hope Worldwide Living Legend Award, A. D. King Foundation: Truth Finder Award, Principled Life Award, Zambians Freedom, Justice and Peace Award, Global Citizens Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, African Leadership Magazine, many proclamations from various states and more. She was featured in the AARP documentary “Voices of Civil Rights", and holds memberships in NAACP, SCLC, SCLC Women, and American Bridge Association.
She is a recognized author and is noted for her devotion to God, her family and her church. Naomi recalls that her courtship and marriage to Rev. King is a wonderful "love story." A. D. called her "Neenie." As the young wife of her activist husband, Rev. A. D. King, I, she stood as First Lady, confidant, prayer partner and advisor to the younger brother of the more famous Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the height of the civil rights battles, where together A. D. and Naomi lived through the bombings of their home in Birmingham Alabama and later their church in Louisville Kentucky, Naomi was a "quiet strength" to her husband and family.
During his lifetime, Rev. A. D. shepherded four churches (First Baptist Church, Newman, Georgia, First Baptist Church Ensley Alabama, Zion Baptist Church, louisville Kentucky and Ebenezer Baptist Church Atlanta Georgia). At his side, Mrs. Naomi Ruth Barber King stood as First Lady, bringing musical concerts, women enrichment programs and gracious tools for living to their congregations. She was a noted hostess of women’s teas and a much sought after women’s day speaker.
Today, Mrs. King is a beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and bright light to those in the church and communities she serves. Naomi is the inspiration of the documentary project A. D. King: Brother to the Dreamer, produced by Dr. Babs Onabanjo. She is an author and speaks out on important issues of the day.She travels all over the world promoting Youth/Women empowerment, nonviolent social change strategies as a way of life and entrepreneurship as the center core. For more information, please visit www.adkingfoundation.com or blog www.adkingfoundation.ning.com