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How Atlanta Is Honoring the Life of Christine King Farris

Martin Luther King Jr.’s last sibling, a retired professor at Spelman College and lifelong member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, died June 29.

Christine King Farris, sister of Martin Luther King Jr., is escorted to her seat during a morning service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2018. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

This story comes from our partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Christine King Farris was practically born in Ebenezer Baptist Church, the grand old Atlanta church that was at times pastored by her grandfather, father, and two brothers.

She was married there and saw her mother, a longtime church organist, die there.

So in the days following the death of the last matriarch of the King family, it is only fitting that Ebenezer will be the site of her homegoing. Willie Christine King Farris, the last sibling of Martin Luther King Jr. and a retired professor at Spelman College, died on June 29.

She was 95.

“She was the backbone at Ebenezer Church,” said her son, Isaac Newton Farris Jr.

Farris was a member of Ebenezer for 95 years, reflecting her family’s long history there.

Her grandfather, the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, became pastor in 1894 and saw the church experience its first significant growth. After moving to several locations in downtown Atlanta, Williams settled on the plot of land on Auburn Avenue and built the brick Late Gothic Revival-style church, which was completed in 1922.

Her father, Martin Luther King Sr. became the pastor in 1931. He married Williams’ daughter, Alberta. By the time King Sr. retired in 1975, a member of Farris’ family had pastored the church for 81 years. Between 1960 and 1968, King Jr. co-pastored with his father.

Her mother, Alberta Christine Williams King, was murdered at Ebenezer in 1974 by a deranged man who walked in and shot her while she played “The Lord’s Prayer,” on the organ.

On Tuesday, the Farris and King families announced a three-day tribute to the life and legacy of Farris. Events will be held at Ebenezer, as well as Spelman College, where Farris attended school and taught for 40 years.

The tributes, family members said, will reflect on her life of service, education, leadership, and her love of music.

July 11: Reflections on her career and community at Spelman’s Sisters Chapel, 350 Spelman Lane. There will be a viewing at 4 p.m., followed at 6 p.m. with tributes from Spelman and the Links. Farris’ sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., will also perform the organization’s final ritual ceremony.

July 15: At Ebenezer’s Heritage Sanctuary, 407 Auburn Ave., Farris will lie in repose from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. A musical tribute will begin at 6 p.m.

July 16: Farris’ funeral will be held at Ebenezer’s Horizon Sanctuary, 101 Jackson St. The viewing will begin at 3 p.m., followed by the 5 p.m. services.