Gov. Healey, Mayor Wu, More Pay Tribute To Boston Activist Mel King

Photo: Boston Globe via Getty Images

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Tributes are pouring in for late Boston civil rights icon, educator, and politician Mel King, who died Tuesday at the age of 94.

King, a longtime political activist and community organizer, ran three times for a seat on the Boston School Committee—in 1961, 1963, and 1965—losing each time.

In 1967, King became executive director of the Urban League of Greater Boston, a position he held until 1971. That year, he founded the Community Fellows Program and became an adjunct professor of urban studies and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1968, he helped organize a sit-in at the Boston Redevelopment Authority offices over the planned development of a parking garage in the South End where housing had been leveled. The three-day protest became known as "Tent City" due to the tents and wooden shanties set up by protestors.

King was elected as a state representative for the 4th Suffolk district in 1973 and served until 1982.

In 1983, King ran for mayor, becoming the first Black candidate to make it to the final election for Mayor of Boston. Though he ultimately lost to Raymond Flynn, the election was known for its civility between the two candidates and for King's use of the term "rainbow coalition" to describe his coalition of support, which preceded Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign the following year.

King founded the Rainbow Coalition Party in Massachusetts in 1997, which merged with the Green Party in 2002 to form the Green-Rainbow Party.

After retiring from MIT, King established the South End Technology Center to provide computer training for low-income residents and served as its director.

In 2021, the City of Boston renamed the intersection of Yarmouth Street and Columbus Avenue in the South End to Melvin H. “Mel” King Square in his honor.

"With the passing of Mel King, we have lost a trailblazer in all of its forms: civil rights leader, grassroots organizer, educator, writer, legislator," Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement Wednesday. "He was my friend and one of the smartest men I have ever known. Mel King was an inspiration to me and countless others who sought and fought for a more just future. He was the generational conscience for the entirety of the Commonwealth and the stalwart foundation on which all Boston’s modern progress has been won. Mel taught me and everyone else in the Massachusetts State House what it meant to fight for real justice – racial, economic, and social. From the time we were sworn in together as young State Representatives, to the long hours spent working in the legislature, Mel changed my life, as well as the lives of the Boston communities he fought for day-in and day-out. Mel has passed from this mortal world, but his legacy will live on in our collective consciousness, reaching out in the words, deeds, and spirits of those fighting for justice. His memory will overcome all barriers, and will continue to rewrite what is possible, forever serving as a beacon guiding our path toward progress. For you, Mel, we will never stop fighting."

Healey ordered flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff Tuesday in honor of King.

In a statement, Mayor Michelle Wu said, "For decades, Mel King taught us all how to serve, how to build and how to love. His impact and legacy stretch across the boundaries of neighborhoods, race, class and status. His transformative ideas have shaped generations of organizers and leaders who are diving us closer toward his vision today."

"A trailblazing civil rights icon and a blessing to our city. Mel King: rest in power, my friend," former Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted.

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins tweeted, "Today we lost a legend. Mel King deserves all the flowers we can give. This groundbreaking, truth telling, unapologetic advocate fought tirelessly for his community. His impact is felt all over our great city. So honored to have learned from him. May his legacy live on."

"Mel King was always on the move. Organizing. Creating. Teaching. Leading. He was a giant in stature & impact, intentional in his building & wielding of power, in how he showed up in the world," said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

Follow WBZ NewsRadio: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iHeartmedia App

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content