Boston

1-on-1 With Michael King, Son of Boston Civil Rights Pioneer Mel King

Boston's mayor laid a wreath for King and declared Tuesday, April 12, as a citywide day of remembrance for him; a funeral is set for Tuesday

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As people attend the wake for Boston civil rights pioneer Mel King on Monday, they are reflecting on his many contributions.

King, the first Black person to reach a general election in a Boston mayor's race, died last month at the age of 94.

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NBC10 Boston's Latoyia Edwards recently sat down with King's son Michael, who shared some of the poignant moments he witnessed.

The South End technology center his father founded to help close the digital and financial divide in the community was the perfect backdrop for Michael King to reminisce about his father's earliest days growing up in Boston's immigrant-rich SoWa neighborhood.

"Syrian and Lebanese neighbors and Hispanics and whites, just the whole group kind of sharing food," he said. "It kind of informed some of his later initiatives and things like the Rainbow Coalition."

Mel and Joyce King were childhood sweethearts, and they raised six kids in Boston's South End, where the Mel King Square street sign now sits.

Civil rights icon Mel King will forever be a part of Boston's history, and community leaders are honoring him after his death.

Michael had a front row seat to his father's run for School Committee, the state Legislature, his prominent teaching position at MIT and his general election mayoral bid against Ray Flynn. Though he lost the 1983 mayor's race to his former House colleague, Mel King's groundbreaking campaign was the first time a Black candidate advanced to the final mayoral ballot in Boston.

Michael King said he still remembers some of the pushback and even racism his father received when he ran.

"Yeah, I remember some of it, the sort of main paper in Boston, they endorsed Flynn and they said, you now, that he was more articulate and better for downtown, all these types of things. The thing about that was you have Mel King with a long list of accomplishments as a legislator. And you had Ray Flynn, who, you know, didn't have quite as great of a list of accomplishments."

PHOTOS: Boston Civil Rights Icon Mel King Through the Years

Mel King marched for civil rights in Boston with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 and when he was a state representative he inspired a movement against Apartheid in South Africa that later led freedom fighter Nelson Mandela to visit the city.

"He would say 'It's all of us or none of us,'" Michael King said of his dad. "And you know, the process of bringing people together, working together for a common good. You know, I think I learned a lot about that."

On Monday, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu held a wreath-laying ceremony along with other city leaders at City Hall Plaza and declared Tuesday, April 11, as a citywide day of remembrance for Mel King.

The leader taught the city "to envision a Boston that could truly be a home to everyone," Wu said.

A public viewing and visitation is set for 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, with an opportunity for "witnesses from the community" from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. His funeral will be held on Tuesday at 12 p.m. The family has invited guests to don bow ties "as a tribute to Mr. King." Both events will take place at the Union United Methodist Church at 485 Columbus Avenue in Boston.

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