Many Atlantans came to say goodbye to mark the end of a dynasty of Kings but also to pay respect to a woman they felt they knew and someone they could relate to as a strong matriarch.
“She looks like a sleeping queen,” said Deanna Jeffrey as she paid her respects to Farris.
Jeffrey had walked in with a woman she had just met at MLK’s tomb, across the street from Ebenezer. Natalie Godwin and Jeffrey both said that while Farris had a special place in the history of Atlanta and the Civil Rights movement, Farris occupied a place in their hearts also because she made them think of their own grandmothers, pioneers for future generations of women.
“I wouldn’t have been been able to accomplish what I have without her,” Godwin said, referring to her own grandmother and also the sense of gratitude she felt to Farris and those of her generation.
Stephen Sidwell, known as Pastor Love of the DeKalb chapter of the SCLC, said it was important not to overlook the full and long life Farris lived and the many contributions she made.
“It’s a big family, a deep legacy in our community, said Sidewell. But that said, “If anyone cries, slap ‘em,” Sidwell said.
“To have lived a life as full as Mrs. Farris had, well, this was a celebration,” he said.
Former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, who was with King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968 when he was assassinated, told the congregation that Farris “was the teacher in the family and helped (her brothers Martin and A.D.) become the men the world needed.”
Current Mayor Andre Dickens said that “as a son of Atlanta, I grew up in the belief that the King family was royalty.”
He added that Farris, a lifetime teacher, was a “champion for literacy” whose life was “a testament to faith, resilience and perseverance.”
The original Ebenezer, across the street from the new sanctuary, was where Farris was married and also where her mother was murdered while playing the organ. The church was also a launching pad for the current pastor, the Rev. Raphael Warnock to become a U.S. Senator.
There’s something fitting that the church that helped forged the man who was the vanguard of the voting rights battle was also the entity that helped propel a person the the august halls of the U.S. Capitol.
Rev. Warnock, who is still pastor of the church, gave the eulogy.
On Friday, her body lay in state at the state Capitol Rotunda. This was the fourth time a Black Georgian received this honor. Earlier in the week, she was honored at Spelman College, the historic Black college where she graduated in 1948 and later taught for half a century.
Her family had a long relationship with Ebenezer Baptist. Her grandfather, the Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, became pastor in 1894, just 30 years after General Sherman burned Atlanta.
Her father, Martin Luther King Sr. started as pastor in 1931 and between 1960 and 1968 Daddy King co-pastored with his famous son.
In 1960, she married the late Isaac Farris Sr.. They had two children, Isaac Jr., and Angela.
Mrs. Farris was a low-key, humble person who worked often worked behind the scenes. She was an author who wrote several books including, “My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
It was a family that witnessed and took part in epic American history and saw much joy and tragedy.
In 2007, Farris told the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “You don’t question anything, but I wonder why am I the one that is left. God must have me here for something.”