IN THE NEWS: JENNIE CELESTE PARKS WILLIAMS, GRANDMOTHER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Jennie Celeste Parks was the maternal grandmother of Martin Luther King, Jr. Born in Atlanta in April 1873 to William and Fannie Parks, Jennie was one of 13 children. She was affectionately called “Mama” by her family. Her father was a carpenter in Atlanta. At the age of fifteen, she attended Spelman Seminary in Atlanta. Jennie was the president of Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Women’s Missionary Society. “She left Spelman in 1892 before completing her degree. On October 29, 1899, she married A. D. Williams the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Deeply pious, Williams was a model wife for a minister. The couple had one child, Alberta Christine Williams (the mother of Martin Luther King, Jr.).1″ Mama moved into the King home when her husband A.D. died in 1931. As a grandmother, she displayed the same level of devotion that she demonstrated as a wife and as the “First Lady” of Ebenezer Church. Mama was especially protective of her Martin Luther King, Jr. “and “could never bear to see him cry.” Referring to her as “saintly,” King, Jr., acknowledged her considerable impact on his childhood. “She was very dear to each of us, but especially to me,” he later wrote. “I sometimes think that I was [her] favorite grandchild. I can remember very vividly how she spent many evenings telling us interesting stories.2”