Xernona Clayton has always been the King whisperer.
Whether she was throwing a surprise birthday party for a reluctant Martin Luther King Jr. three months before his death or, without a cent to her name, trudging to a local dress shop to secure dresses for Coretta Scott King to wear for her husband’s funeral.
It seemed fitting that it was Clayton, standing in front of King’s body at Spelman College’s Sisters Chapel, who was mixing a concoction.
Julie Robinson, the Jewish wife of Harry Belafonte, had given Clayton some of her powder foundation. So had King’s mother.
Harry Belafonte, who had quietly funded large portions of the Southern Christian Leadership Conferences’ work, carefully placed his handkerchief around King’s neck before Clayton applied the bronze results of her experiment.
Moments earlier, Coretta insisted that the large crowd waiting in the rain to see King’s body be allowed to come in. But Clayton whispered that Coretta should see him first, before the crowd.
That was out of respect, but then Clayton was hit with the realization that King “looked awful.”
“There was a big blob on his right cheek,” Clayton said later. “Red as the red clay of Georgia.”
So she mixed and she made King over.
Coretta was satisfied.
The March 21 documentary 'The Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.' on Channel 2 kicked off a countdown of remembrance across the combined platforms of Channel 2 and its partners, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB Radio. The three Atlanta news sources will release comprehensive multi-platform content until April 9, the anniversary of King’s funeral. On April 4, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, the three properties will devote extensive live coverage to the memorials in Atlanta, Memphis and around the country. The project will present a living timeline in real time as it occurred on that day in 1968, right down to the time the fatal shot was fired that ended his life an hour later. The project will culminate on April 9 with coverage of the special processional in Atlanta marking the path of Dr. King’s funeral, which was watched by the world.
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