In Memoriam

Coretta Scott King  (1927-2006)

AP/John Bazmore

Corretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., died early this week at a holistic health center in Mexico where she was receiving rehabilitation treatment after suffering a stroke this past summer. She was 78 years old.

A native of Marion, Alabama, she was valedictorian at her high school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music at Antioch College in Ohio. She continued her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While there she met Martin Luther King Jr., the young Boston University divinity student whom she would later marry.

During the civil rights era Coretta Scott King marched hand in hand with her husband on the front lines of the struggle. After her husband's assassination in 1968, Coretta Scott King remained an outspoken voice for equality and human rights throughout the world.

Nellie McKay (1930-2006)

Nellie McKay, one of the nation's leading authorities on African-American literature and a professor of English and Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin for nearly 30 years, died after a long battle with cancer of the liver. She was 75 years old.

Professor McKay was perhaps best known for her work as coeditor with Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the highly regarded Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. McKay's 1988 book Critical Essays on Toni Morrison is largely credited with establishing the critical acclaim for the writings of the Princeton University professor as worthy of the Nobel Prize.

McKay was a graduate of Queens College, part of the City University of New York system. She went on to earn a master's degree and Ph.D. in literature from Harvard University.

In 1972 McKay began her academic career as an instructor at Simmons College in Boston. After gaining tenure in 1977 she left for an untenured post at the University of Wisconsin. After six years in Madison, she was promoted to associate professor with tenure. She became a full professor in 1989 with dual appointments in English and Afro-American studies. She served as the chair of the Afro-American studies department.

It is not generally known that in 1991, when the Harvard University Afro-American studies program was in vast disarray, McKay was offered the position to head the department. She turned down the offer and instead recommended her friend Skip Gates, who was then at Duke, for the post. Professor Gates took the position and is widely regarded as having built the nation’s premier black studies program.

Marjorie Holloman Parker (1916-2006)

Marjorie Holloman Parker, former chair of the board of trustees and professor of history and philosophy at the University of the District of Columbia, died at her home in Washington late last month from heart disease. She was 89 years old.

A native of North Carolina, Parker moved with her family to Washington, D.C., when she was a young girl. She attended the highly regarded Dunbar High School and did her undergraduate work at Miner Teachers College in the District. She later would earn a master's degree in history and a Ph.D. in philosophy of education from the University of Chicago.

After teaching for a decade in the public school system in Washington, in 1949 Parker joined the faculty of Miner Teachers College. From 1959 to 1965 she taught at Bowie State University in Maryland before returning to her alma mater, which had been renamed the District of Columbia Teachers College and later the University of the District of Columbia.

Parker also served as a member of the Republican National Committee and was appointed to the D.C. City Council by President Richard Nixon. She also served as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s oldest black sorority.

Her husband Barrington D. Parker Sr., who died in 1993, was a federal district court judge in Washington.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.