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Local elected officials react to Mel King's death: 'He was the generational conscience' for Massachusetts

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)

Local political leaders are reacting to the death of prominent Boston civil rights activist Mel King. He died in his sleep Tuesday at the age 94.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said King's ideas shaped generations of leaders who drive the city closer to his vision of a more equal society.

King's activism called for better wages and opportunities for all people, and stretched back decades. The longtime South End resident was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1973 and held a seat there for nearly a decade. He lost a bid for Boston mayor in 1983, but became the first Black person ever to reach a mayoral general election in the city.

Calling King a friend and a trailblazer, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey reflected on their time working together as young state representatives. He said King taught everyone in the Legislature what it meant to fight for racial, economic and social justice.

"He was the generational conscience for the entirety of the Commonwealth and the stalwart foundation on which all Boston's modern progress has been won," Markey wrote in a statement Tuesday night.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed her condolences to King's family and Boston leaders mourning his passing. In a tweet early Wednesday, Warren wrote that King's "persistent fight for justice demonstrated exactly who he was: bold, unapologetic, and rooted in community he loved."

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey wrote in a tweet Wednesday that "the work and legacy of Mel King reverberate throughout Boston and well beyond the borders of Massachusetts. This loss will be felt just as widely."

Councilor at-large Ruthzee Louijeune tweeted that King's legacy will be felt all over the city. She added that she was "so lucky to learn from him & his vision."

Massachusetts Veterans' Services Secretary Jon Santiago, who most recently represented King's 9th Suffolk District seat in the House, said there "was always that feeling you were in the company of greatness" with King.

"So honored to have followed his footsteps & represent our beloved South End," Santiago tweeted.

This article was originally published on March 29, 2023.


Lisa Creamer Managing Editor, Digital
Lisa Creamer is WBUR's managing editor for digital news.


Samantha Coetzee Associate Producer
Samantha Coetzee is the associate producer for WBUR's Morning Edition.



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