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'We praised her into the gates' | Mother Georgia King remembered as 'vanguard' of civil rights

“She was about business, but she was also about effective change,” said Ondrea Heggie, Georgia King's daughter.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Memphis mourns the loss of a local civil rights leader, Georgia King, her family is continuing her legacy. 

Poplar Ave and Orleans near Morris Park is affectionately known as Georgia King Avenue. It is named after a pioneer in both the civil rights movement and community advocacy here in the City of Memphis.

“We grow up learning and going to church and learning about faith in the word, but to actually see it in action that’s the greatest gift I think anyone can give,” said Ondrea Heggie, Memphis resident and Georgia King's daughter.

Faith is a gift given to Heggie by her mother, Georgia King. 

“She was about business, but she was also about effective change,” Heggie said.

King was widely known as "Mother King" — a civil rights force, active in outreach and participating as well as organizing protests. One such march was the 1968 "Sanitation Workers’ Strike."

"She was a vanguard with the organization with Martin Luther King," Heggie said. "She’s been in the fight ever since."

Her work poured into helping individuals with homelessness and mental health having walked from Roanoke, Virginia to the U.S. Capitol advocating for more funding in the middle of a hurricane. 

“Her connection of her faith and her devotion to service into the Lord’s work is just paramount,” Heggie said.

Her advocacy lasted decades, but in November 2022, Mother King became ill. On Feb. 7, 2023, Mother King passed away. 

“The final hours of the transition was just amazing because we praised her and everything into the gates,” said Heggie. “I just didn’t believe in leaving her. I just didn’t.”

King didn’t believe in leaving them as well. Heggie remembered a prayer her mother said to her. 

“When I turned 13 going into my teenage years … I’m sorry. She took my hands and prayed for them. She said 'Lord, I want you to bless her that whatever she lays hands to do that you allow her to do it with love of the Lord — whatever she does that it will come to fruition.'”

It was a prayer to live by faith, which led Heggie to a life in service like her mother. She now helps fight homelessness. 

“If you do what’s good, He’ll do what’s right. If you do what’s right, He will do what’s necessary,” said Heggie.

Mother King would have been 83-years-old on Feb. 17. Her family said they will carry on her legacy by continuing to do the work to help those who are homeless and suffering from mental illness.

Visitation services for Mother King will be held on Feb. 16 at Serenity Funeral Home from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and at Calvary Episcopal Church from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

The funeral service will be Feb. 17th at Calvary Episcopal Church at 11:00 a.m.

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