Performer was Martin Luther King Jr.'s eldest child

Yolanda Denise King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest child who pursued her father’s dream of racial harmony through acting and motivational speaking died Tuesday, May 16 in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 51.

The family did not know the cause of death but that relatives think it might have been a heart problem.

Born in Montgomery, Ala., King was just an infant when her home was bombed during the turbulent civil rights era.

As an actress, she appeared in films including “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and even played Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries “King.” She also appeared in TV movies “Selma Lord Selma” and “The Secret Path” and on series “JAG” and “Any Day Now.”

King — an actor, speaker and producer — was the founder and head of Higher Ground Productions, billed as a “gateway for inner peace, unity and global transformation.” On her company’s Web site, King described her mission as encouraging personal growth and positive social change.

King also was an author and held memberships in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — which her father co-founded in 1957 — and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Her death comes more than a year after the death of her mother, Coretta Scott King.

Survivors include her sister, the Rev. Bernice A. King and brothers Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King.

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