Here's What Happened To MLK Jr.'s Four Children And Only Grandchild

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s public life was one of the most transformative, important, and celebrated in 20th-century American history. As the vanguard and driving force of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of the most visible public figures and effective orators of his day, whose speeches, delivered at protests and rallies across the country, are now woven into the fabric of the collective American consciousness.

But Dr. King also had a busy home life. With his wife, Coretta Scott King, he was the father of four children: Martin Luther King III, Dexter, Yolanda, and Bernice. All of Dr. King's children were still young when, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated by gunman James Earl Ray as he was standing on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. But as the 100,000 mourners who came to Dr. King's funeral proved, his death did not mean the end of the Civil Rights Movement. King's children — and, recently, his teenage granddaughter — have continued to build upon his legacy.

Yolanda Denise King

Born on November 17, 1955, Yolanda Denise King is the eldest of Dr. Martin Luther King's children. She had 12 years with her father before he was shot to death on a hotel balcony in Memphis. By then she was already aware of racism, experiencing it firsthand at a young age, and is said to have been the direct influence for Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech, in which he envisions a society in which children do not have to experience prejudice or segregation.

However, despite her keen political awareness Yolanda chose not to enter into political activism as her father had done, though she did speak at numerous events marking his legacy. Instead, she pursued a career as an actress, which she admitted her father may have thought of as somewhat inconsequential. Nevertheless, she made a success of it and later told People that her father, a man famous for his magnetism and stage presence, would have been proud of her. Academically, she also specialized in African American studies and held a Masters Degree from New York University. She died on May 15, 2007, at the age of 51.

​​Martin Luther King III

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s eldest son was chosen to carry on his father's name, as is tradition in many prominent families. He was born on October 23, 1957, meaning he was just 10 years old at the time of his father's assassination.

Despite experiencing such tragedy at a young age, King III continued his father's example of hard academic work throughout his childhood and developed a similar interest in politics, gaining a degree in political science from Morehouse College. His political career began in 1986 in Fulton County, where he served on the Board of Commissioners. Since then, he has been the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and chairman of the board of the Drum Major Institute, where he continues his father's work through speeches, activism, and social programs. He married Arndrea Waters King in 2006, who in 2024 was serving as the President of the Drum Major Institute. 

King III has been especially visible in recent years, and has acted as a mediator between former President Donald Trump during a high-profile dispute with United States Representative John Lewis in 2017, and also publicly supported Colin Kaepernick after he chose to "take a knee" as a form of protest during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games.

Dexter Scott King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s third child and second son was born January 30, 1961, and was just 7 when his father was killed. Like his father and older brother, Dexter pursued higher education but studied business at Morehouse College rather than politics. However, he never took his degree, and instead made steps in the music industry, where he worked with big names including Prince and Whitney Houston on a memorial album to his father. He later worked as an attorney and became chairman of the King Center. In 2004, he published a memoir, "Growing Up King," which explored the impact his father's assassination had on his childhood. In 2013 he married Leah Weber. 

Sadly, on January 22, 2024, it was reported that Dexter Scott King had died of cancer at the age of 62. The news prompted an outpouring of grief from many, including members of the King family. Weber shared a statement about her husband's last moments, saying: "He transitioned peacefully in his sleep at home with me in Malibu. He gave it everything and battled this terrible disease until the end. As with all the challenges in his life, he faced this hurdle with bravery and might" (via People).

Martin Luther King III posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, "I am deeply saddened to share that my brother, Dexter Scott King, has passed away," "The sudden shock is devastating. It is hard to have the right words at a moment like this. Please keep the entire King family in your prayers, and in particular Dexter's wife, Leah Weber King."

Bernice Albertine King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s youngest child is Bernice Albertine King who followed in her father's footsteps to become a preacher. Born on March 28, 1963, she was only 5 when her father was killed. She told Today she sees parallels between her own experience of loss and racially-fueled violence with that of the 6-year-old daughter of George Floyd, whose killing by police in 2020 prompted widespread protests around the world.

In her early years, Bernice studied psychology and divinity and became a preacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church where three generations of her family had worshipped. She later became a senior pastor and published a book of her sermons.

However, Bernice's relationship with her siblings has occasionally been strained, as numerous public disputes have made clear. In 2016, she lost a legal challenge from her two brothers, with whom she shared her father's estate, for the right to sell her father's Nobel Prize and Bible, both of which were in Bernice's possession. A judge ordered her to relinquish the items to her brothers. According to The Guardian, Bernice considered the sale of two of her father's most prized possessions "unthinkable." 

Yolanda Renee King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s sole granddaughter is Yolanda Renee King, the daughter of Martin Luther King III and his wife, Arndrea Waters King. Still only a teenager, Yolanda Renee has embraced her family's Civil Rights heritage, though she claims that she has not been pressured into a life of political activity or public service (per NPR). 

Yolanda Renee has come into the public eye at an early age. In 2018 when she was barely 10 years old, she spoke at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. (above), giving a speech aimed and galvanizing her generation, who are as yet unable to vote, to become politically active. More recently, she has given speeches outlining the importance of expanding voting rights and explained her family's campaigning on the matter.

She has also appeared on outlets such as CNN. In an interview with presenter Dana Bash, the young activist shares her belief that older generations have "failed" to achieve her grandfather's dream of a truly equal, equitable, and just society and that the next generation now has to take the responsibility to put things right.