Yolanda King, the eldest child of civil rights leaders the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, has died. She was 51.
King collapsed and died late Tuesday, May 15th, in Santa Monica, a spokesman for the King Center in Atlanta said.
The cause of death was not known but the family suspects it may have been a heart problem, the King Center spokesman said.
King died less than a year and a half after her mother, Coretta Scott King, died in January 2006 at the age of 78 after battling ovarian cancer and the effects of a stroke.
Yolanda King was born on November 17th, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama.
She was just 12 years old when her father was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968.
She was the founder and CEO of Higher Ground Productions, a Culver City-based organization dedicated to teaching people to celebrate diversity and embrace unity.
Her mission was to encourage personal growth and positive social change through her work as an actor, speaker and producer, according to Higher Ground Productions.
As a speaker and actor, King performed or lectured in 49 of the U.S. states, as well as in Europe, Africa and Asia for educational, business, religious and civic organizations.
King was the keynote speaker at a Westside celebration of the birthday of her father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in January last year at the Soka Gakai International Auditorium in Santa Monica.
She was the author or co-author of two books — Open My Eyes, Open My Soul and Embracing Your Power in 30 Days.
King received a bachelor’s degree with honors from Smith College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in theater from New York University.
She was the recipient of two honorary doctoral degrees.
As an actor, she had several roles in films related to social change, including playing Rosa Parks in the NBC-TV movie King, Betty Shabazz in the film Death of a Prophet and Medgar Evers’ daughter in Ghosts of Mississippi.
King received honors from organizations around the country and served on the boards of organizations dedicated to missions such as social change, justice and peace.