THOMAS M. KING, 80

Thomas M. King Dies at 80

Father Thomas M. King, a Georgetown University theology professor and prolific author, was known for offering a "last-chance Mass" at 11:15 every night before finals and throughout the academic year at the school.
Father Thomas M. King, a Georgetown University theology professor and prolific author, was known for offering a "last-chance Mass" at 11:15 every night before finals and throughout the academic year at the school. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
Buy Photo
By Rebekah Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thomas M. King, 80, a Jesuit priest and Georgetown University theology professor who blessed the film crew and sets for the 1973 movie "The Exorcist," died June 23 at his home in Washington after an apparent heart attack.

A prolific author, Father King wrote books on Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton and the Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who sought to reconcile evolution with the doctrine of the Catholic church.

Father King's other books included "Sartre and the Sacred" (1974), based on the writing of existentialist author Jean-Paul Sartre, and "Enchantments" (1989), a meditation on religious experiences and the power of the written word.

Father King, who was ordained in 1964, joined the Georgetown faculty four years later and remained affiliated with the university after retiring several years ago. In addition to his teaching duties, he was known for offering a "last-chance Mass" at 11:15 every night before finals and throughout the academic year at the school's Dahlgren Chapel.

Father King enjoyed a degree of popular attention for his off-screen role in "The Exorcist," which was filmed in Washington in 1972. He told the Washington Times how he had been asked to bless the set before the cameras started rolling.

"I think an actor had died previously and other things happened," he said, referring to a spate of bad luck on the set. "So I gave them a blessing. Took about a minute."

Thomas Mulvihill King was born May 9, 1929, in Pittsburgh. He received a bachelor's degree in economics and speech from the University of Pittsburgh in 1951, a master's degree in physics education from Fordham University 1958, a licentiate in sacred theology in 1965 from Woodstock College near Baltimore, and a doctorate in religious sciences in 1968 from the University of Strasbourg in France.

He was founder and long-time president of University Faculty for Life, an anti-abortion group, and founder of a science and religion group called Cosmos and Creation.

Survivors include a brother, Father Bill King of Washington, and two sisters, Martha Cox of Pittsburgh and Catherine Marie Tovey of Portland, Ore.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company