Dora McDonald, 81; Secretary For Martin Luther King Jr.

Dora McDonald, center, said little about working for Martin Luther King Jr.
Dora McDonald, center, said little about working for Martin Luther King Jr. (1964 Photo By Associated Press)
From News Services
Monday, January 15, 2007

Dora McDonald, 81, a onetime secretary for Martin Luther King Jr. who handled a variety of administrative duties and later divulged little about her front-line perspective on the civil rights movement, died Jan. 13 at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta. She had cancer.

King entrusted his family to Ms. McDonald's care when he was in jail or traveling, and it was Ms. McDonald who told Coretta Scott King that her husband had been assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis.

Ms. McDonald started working for the civil rights leader in 1960 and quickly became his confidant and adviser.

In a 1989 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ms. McDonald described her role as King's secretary at Ebenezer Baptist Church and later at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as "a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job.

"But there was never a time -- and I can say this in all truthfulness, from the time I went to work for him until his death -- that I regretted what I was doing or where I was at that moment," she said.

After King's death, Ms. McDonald could not bring herself to hang up pictures of him, refused to listen to recordings of him and would not reveal anything personal about him. In a 2002 autobiography, she refused to describe much of the behind-the-scenes workings of the movement, despite encouragement from civil rights leaders.

Born in Greeleyville, S.C., and raised in Sumter, S.C., Ms. McDonald spent her early career as secretary to Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays and then at a savings and loan in Atlanta.

After King's death, she spent much of the 1970s as an administrative assistant to civil rights leader and Georgia Rep. Andrew Young (D). Ms. McDonald also had retired from a job at IBM.

Ms. McDonald has no immediate survivors.

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