Atlanta woman recalls growing up next to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 11:17 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family moved into a home on Sunset Avenue in northwest Atlanta.

The two-story, four-bedroom home was purchased by the National Parks Service in 2019 and is undergoing renovations. Eventually, it will be open for the public to visit.

Elmira J. Williams says a lot of people know about that home on Sunset Avenue, and Dr. King’s birth home on Auburn Avenue. But she lived next door to him as a child on Johnson Avenue, which is now known as John Lewis Freedom Parkway.

“Everybody knows that he lived on Sunset. But before he lived on Sunset, he lived on Johnson Avenue, which was around the corner from me,” Williams said.

Now, Williams is a patient at JenCare Senior Medical Center and no longer lives in her childhood home. But she fondly remembers attending church at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, being taught vacation Bible school by MLK’s sister, and even trick-or-treating at his house with her own sister.

“Mrs. King always had good candy. She was a very pleasant lady. Always had good candy. We knew if we went around there, we were going to get good candy,” Williams said.

She also credits Dr. King with helping her father become one of Atlanta’s first black police officers.

“I think Dr. King was instrumental in having people decide that it was time for blacks to be represented and my father was one of the first eight,” Williams said. “In those days the black policemen couldn’t arrest whites, they didn’t have a squad car, and they had to walk their beat. They didn’t go into the police precinct, they had to change clothes at Butler Street Y.”

But over time, things progressed in Atlanta and across the country thanks to Dr. King’s peaceful leadership.

“We’ve come a long way. And I wonder if he would’ve been our first black president had he lived,” Williams asked. “We looked at him as our president. You know, we revered him.”