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Longtime South End state rep. remembers fellow civil rights and social justice leader Mel King

Mel King campaigns for mayor of Boston. (Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images)
Mel King campaigns for mayor of Boston. (Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images)

Boston has lost a civil rights and social justice leader whose impact on the city lasted more than half a century.

Mel King died Tuesday at the age of 94.

King started as a grassroots community leader in the 1950s. He organized efforts against poverty and for affordable housing, better public schooling, and jobs.

King served as state representative for the South End for 10 years. He ran for mayor in 1983 but lost to Ray Flynn. During that campaign, he said in an interview that he'd be the mayor of the entire city.

"I reach out to people everywhere, including people who disagree with a number of my positions. It is the only way that we're going to be able to bring the city together," King said. "You find out where there are some commonalities with respect to those differences, and then you begin to move on."

That inclusiveness is what Byron Rushing remembers about Mel King. Rushing took over King's seat in the legislature and held it until 2019. The two worked together on local issues for years.

"He always had a sense that there could be no major changes and successes in the city or the state without all progressives coming together — regardless of their race, regardless of any other aspects of their existence and background, other than they wanted to make things better," Rushing said. "If they wanted to make things better, if they wanted to make things accessible for everyone, then Mel was part of that organizing."

Rushing spoke with WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins about King and his legacy.

This segment aired on March 29, 2023.


Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.


Lisa Mullins Host, All Things Considered
Lisa Mullins is the voice of WBUR’s All Things Considered. She anchors the program, conducts interviews and reports from the field.



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