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Locals mourn loss, reflect on legacy of icon

andria.simmons@gwinnettdailypost.com

LAWRENCEVILLE - Robbie Susan Moore lost a role model Tuesday.

As a black woman, she emulated the quiet grace of Coretta Scott King, wife of the famed leader of the civil rights movement, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As the head of Gwinnett's United Ebony Society, Moore looked at King as a model for courage.

"We have a lot to celebrate because of the legacy she left behind," Moore said of King, who died early Tuesday.

Across the country today, people will begin to celebrate Black History Month and the Kings' contribution to it.

Moore said the organization may place a black ribbon around a King photo in the displays to express grief over the matriarch of the movement's death.

"We want people to know how sad our hearts are but how glad we are that God gave us the gift of the Kings," she said. "We are saddened by this, but we have to look to the future."

Melvin Buchanan, a member of the Duluth Civitan Club, said his thoughts were on the future Tuesday as well.

"What we have to do now is pick up from where she inspired us," he said. "There's a lot to build on. It would be a dishonor to her if we didn't move forward."

The Rev. John Stewart Jr. said he was saddened upon hearing the news of King's death Tuesday morning.

Stewart, president of the Gwinnett branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had met King several times while working as the human resources director for the Hyatt hotel in Atlanta, where the annual King dinner is held.

"My recollection of her was a person who loved excellence, who had high expectations of herself and others around her," Stewart said. "You see her picture in the paper, she seems like a woman who is very dignified and very proud, and she is, but she is very warm as a human being."

Stewart said community members should not mourn King's death, but instead celebrate her great life.

"Because of the life that she and her husband lived, people can live in Gwinnett County and they can pursue the opportunities that they would not have had the opportunities to pursue," Stewart said.

"The challenges today are a lot different than they were say 40 years ago. There is not the overt oppression and racism. The challenge now is for people to pursue the opportunities that really are available to them and work together toward a society that is free of violence, where people can work together across religious or racial differences."

Stewart said it was too soon Tuesday to know whether any special memorials would be planned for King locally.