Alveda King is 68 years old but tells everyone she is 69.
“I always count the days in my mother’s womb, before I was born,” says King, who was raised in the same house her famous uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., was born in.
That belief, that life begins at conception, is a tenet that she has lived by for close to 40 years.
Also making King a darling of conservatives: her more recent championing of President Donald Trump. She is one of the president’s biggest African American boosters on Fox News, where she is a paid contributor.
King stuck with Trump in 2017 when he resisted criticizing white supremacists after the violent Charlottesville rally. This summer she stood by Trump – literally – in the White House to counter allegations he was a racist after he told minority lawmakers to go back to where they came from.
That support has raised eyebrows among African Americans who question her motives and commitment to civil rights. Only 8% of African Americans voted for Trump in 2016, even before he disparaged prominent black leaders such as John Lewis and Elijah Cummings and their minority districts.
Backing Trump also has put her at odds politically with other members of the King family. Martin Luther King III, Alveda’s cousin and a son of King Jr., blasted Vice President Mike Pence for comparing Trump to the elder King, saying King Jr. “was a bridge builder, not a wall builder.” Bernice King, King Jr.’s daughter, who heads The King Center, has been a regular critic of the president on social media.
Earlier this year, Alveda King joined Trump on Air Force One as he signed the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Act, creating Georgia’s first national historic park. King was joined by one of her cousins, Issac Farris, but none of King Jr.’s children attended.
On a recent afternoon, King sat on a bench at her family’s house of worship, Ebenezer Baptist Church. She said hearing her uncle’s voice, constantly piped through the church, soothes her. She said she backs Trump because he supports anti-abortion measures, and insisted the president is not a racist.
“It almost doesn’t matter what they say about me, as long as they spell my name right,” King said. “I am a Christian evangelist. I support candidates whose platforms I agree with.”
None of the tourists who passed through the church said anything to her, but many paused to look at her. The King family resemblance, down to the widow’s peak, is undeniable.
She just smiled.
Praise from Trump – and no shortage of critics
Pinned to the top of her Twitter page sums up everything you need to know about Alveda King’s relationship with Donald Trump.
“I am the Niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Listen to my words… President Trump is not a racist!! He is one of the best presidents America has ever seen! I fully support him!”
The message has been re-tweeted 56,000 times and more than 116,000 people have liked it.
But likes are relative on social media.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” one person commented. “You can bet MLK would be ashamed after he died because of racism.”
“Shame on Alveda King. She DOES NOT represent the vision of MLK Jr.,” another wrote. “She is a right-wing evangelical mouthpiece who cares more about propaganda than the truth. She needs to be ‘called out’ on her politically deluded remarks.”
Despite political differences, her relationships with King family members have remained strong.
She is on the board of trustees of The King Center and has long played the role of family mediator in spats among the children of Coretta King and King Jr. All family gatherings are held at Alveda King’s Atlanta home, according to Farris, her cousin and the son of King Jr.’s oldest sister, Christine King Farris.
“I know that a lot of people are surprised at the fact her leanings tend to be more with Republicans than with Democrats,” said Farris. “But I would say that her ties to the Republican Party are more about her religion than secular politics.”
King Jr. wouldn’t agree with all of Alveda King’s views, Farris added, but he believes the civil rights icon is “looking down and smiling at her because she is grounded and a true Christian woman.”
King Jr.’s three surviving children, Bernice, Martin and Dexter, generally decline interview requests. They also declined to be interviewed for this article.
Since Trump’s rise to power, only a handful of blacks have gotten close to him — and none of those have been well received by the black communities they are supposed to court.
Atlanta radio host Robert Patillo, a civil rights activist, said African Americans who have allied themselves with the president come in three categories:
The “far fringe, where you find your Diamond and Silk and Candace Owens,” Patillo said. “They are the minstrel shows and entertainers with no policy agenda and no doctrine. They just want to go viral.”
Opposite of that is the space occupied by the likes of U.S. Senator Tim Scott and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, moderates “who have distinct policy positions, but understand that being on Trump’s good side helps their goals.”
King, he said, represents a middle ground and “understands that having a friend in the White House is best for the black community.”
King said she has been a fan of Trump “from when he was the Donald,” and met him for the first time at a political fundraiser in November 2015. A photograph of that encounter catches the two embracing.
She has accompanied Trump at events where he showcases himself to black voters and joined the president on his visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in early 2017.
“I can tell you this personally, ‘cause I watch [King] all the time, she is a tremendous fighter for justice,” said Trump at the museum. “You are so incredible. And I want to thank you for all the nice things you say about me.”
In Trump, most importantly, King sees a president committed to rolling back abortion rights. Trump has appointed dozens of conservative judges who could do just that, while King is director of African American outreach at Priests for Life, an anti-abortion group.
But she also has championed Trump on other fronts. On Fox, where she is always introduced as the “niece of Martin Luther King Jr.,” she weighed in on police brutality, saying it was not about skin color but “the conditions that are so oppressive. So all white people are not devils, all black people are not angels.”
But on one occasion, she was careful not to criticize John Lewis after a host tried to bait her, instead calling him a “peacemaker” who was trained by her family.
“Some of the issues other people have with (Trump), I get that. But I have worked with people who are racists and Trump is not one,” King told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “When he got elected, he said, ‘We all bleed the same.’ He gets it.”
The Conversion of Alveda King
King was the first grandchild of Alberta and Daddy King, who pastored Ebenezer for 44 years. Her first home was on Auburn Ave., in the same house her famous uncle was born a generation earlier.
In 1969, when she was a teenager, her father A.D. King died at the bottom of the family’s swimming pool. After his death, King says she went in search of herself and got lost.
She was in and out of at least a half dozen colleges, including Spelman, as she tried to live the life of a “socialite, movie star, celebrity, and millionaire,” even appearing in several movies, including “Sharky’s Machine.”
“I was living my life. Married and divorced several times,” King said. “I was cussing and drinking hard liquor. Singing in night clubs. Staying out late. I had a risqué lifestyle.”
She also had abortions.
The first one came in 1970. Only 19, King was already married with one child and visited her doctor alone. She said that, without her knowing exactly what was happening, the doctor performed dilation and curettage, a procedure used for miscarriages or abortions.
In 1973, pregnant again and trying to save a marriage, she made the decision on her own to have an abortion. A year later, she had a miscarriage.
She became deeply involved in Democratic politics, representing parts of Atlanta in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1979 until 1983.
In 1983, at a new job at Atlanta Metropolitan College, she says she met a woman who carried “a big red book with a sword on it” and convinced her to become a born-again Christian.
With the religious conversion came a political one. The next year, King ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican.
“Although I had been born into a church full of preachers, when I became born-again, my worldview changed,” said King, adding that it still took her two years to stop cursing. “I left everything and abandoned it. I had a nervous breakdown and no longer cared about the things I used to care about.”
King started to see abortions as immoral and had five more children. She named the children she never had Phillip, Jessica and Raphael, because “they are people.”
She also has written 10 books, according to Amazon. Two of the titles: “How Can the Dream Survive If We Murder The Children?” and “America Return To God: Repent from Sin, Rebuild the Wall, Repair the Gates, Restore the Dream.”
“People look at me and say, ‘you had abortions, you drank liquor, you had three divorces. What can you teach me?’ I tell them that none of that was OK, but I learned from those experiences,” King said. “So at 69, I am just enjoying life and family.”