At Coretta Scott King's funeral, the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. was remembered both for her achievements in civil rights and for her humanity.
Coretta Scott King Remembered
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Torino, Italy):
...we will begin tonight's broadcast with a huge gathering today in Atlanta, a day spent remembering a woman who helped to change a nation.
Today four presidents of the United States came to say goodbye to Coretta Scott King, so did some giants of the civil rights movement, and so did some ordinary Americans, all gathered for an extraordinary service that was both dignified and raw, sad and happy, soaring and somber. Coretta Scott King never set out to be an icon, but she was remembered as one today. We begin tonight in Atlanta. Here is NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge.
MARTIN SAVIDGE reporting:
So many came to say goodbye. A church with 10,000 seats was too small.
Unidentified Police Officer: Hold on now. Hold on.
Unidentified Man: I couldn't miss being here.
SAVIDGE: When told there was no more room inside, the crowd outside chanted in frustration.
SAVIDGE: Four US presidents joined 14 senators, celebrities, civil rights activists and a sea of others whose lives were touched and in many cases changed by Coretta Scott King...
Unidentified Woman: (Singing) "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."
SAVIDGE: ...gathering to remember the woman who in the words of President Bush loved a leader, then became one herself.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I've come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation at the passing of a woman who worked to make our nation whole.
SAVIDGE: It was Coretta King who carried her husband's legacy forward for nearly 40 years after his death.
Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): And in the face of her constant courage, her unshakeable faith, her inner strength and quiet grace, even Jim Crow had to yield.
SAVIDGE: President Jimmy Carter said he could not have won office were it not for the changes the Kings and the civil rights movement brought.
Former President JIMMY CARTER: Each of their public handshakes to me was worth a million Yankee votes.
SAVIDGE: Then said, `more needs to be done.'
Pres. CARTER: We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for Americans.
SAVIDGE: The Reverend Joseph Lowery who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr. shook the president's hand then scolded his foreign and domestic policies.
Reverend JOSEPH LOWERY: We know now that there are no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
SAVIDGE: Poet Maya Angelou said Mrs. King's death leaves behind a deep debt.
Ms. MAYA ANGELOU: We owe something from this minute on, so this gathering is not just another footnote on the pages of history.
SAVIDGE: After all the praise and talk of her place in history, it was President Clinton who brought the service down to earth, reminding the congregation that before she was a leader, Mrs. King was a woman.
Former President BILL CLINTON: A real woman who lived and breathed and got angry and got hurt and had dreams and disappointments.
SAVIDGE: A woman who loved not just a cause but a man taken from her so long ago.
Reverend LOWERY: Glory, glory, alleluia! And after 40 years, almost 40 years, together at last, together at last. Thank God Almighty! Together at last!
SAVIDGE: And it is worth pointing out with all the dignitaries and with all the celebrities that were on hand for the funeral of Coretta Scott King, not a single president was present for the funeral of her husband 38 years ago.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. A Baptist minister and civil rights activist, he had an enormous impact on race relations in the United States. Through his activism, he played a key role in ending the segregation of African-American citizens in the South and the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King was assassinated in April 1968 and continues to be remembered as one of the greatest African-American leaders in history.