Eleanor Louise Edwards King, 87, a longtime federal employee who worked for the Marine Corps, Navy and Justice Department, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 15 at Potomac Valley Nursing Home in Rockville. She had lived in the District for many years.
Mrs. King was born in Kents Store, Va. Her paternal grandfather was a freedman who had owned land since the Civil War and founded a Baptist congregation in Fluvanna County, Va. Her grandmother on her mother's side was a freed slave named Indiana Jones who had been educated to become a teacher at a Presbyterian school in North Carolina founded by female missionaries.
Because Fluvanna County did not provide a secondary education for African American residents, Mrs. King, at 13, was sent to the District to attend Garnett-Patterson Junior High School. The next year, she returned to Goochland County, Va., which had a high school. She graduated in 1935.
Recalling the long bus rides she had to take, past a school for whites, to reach the black school she attended, she "shouted for joy" when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, said her daughter, Elois King.
After graduating from high school, Mrs. King worked for a year in the home of a Foreign Service family, where she was something of an unofficial apprentice to a German chef. She attended St. Phillips School of Nursing -- now part of Virginia Commonwealth University -- in Richmond from 1937 to 1939 but did not receive a nursing degree.
She returned to Washington in the early years of World War II, took her civil service test and began her career in the federal government at the War Production Board.
After a brief stint in the payroll office of the Treasury Department, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps payroll office in 1949. She stayed until 1972, when she moved to the U.S. Navy. After three years with the Navy, she moved to the Justice Department, where she was a senior travel auditor for U.S. attorneys. She retired in 1987.
She was known for her singing, cooking and willingness to help others. Mrs. King's brother, her daughter recalled, "once said that she would give the shirt off her back. But she would also tell you how to wear it and how not to need it again."
She was a strong, levelheaded woman who "consoled and counseled people," her daughter recalled.
Mrs. King's husband, M.K. King, died in 1964.
Survivors include her daughter, of the District; and a brother, Edgar L. Edwards Jr. of Richmond.