I don’t know if Coretta Scott King still pulls any water in Congress, but she once did. In fact, she may have been influential enough in 1986 to sink the confirmation of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to serve as judge in the southern district of Alabama. She was unable to appear in person to testify against Sessions, so she wrote a long detailed letter to the Judiciary Committee explaining her strident opposition to the idea of giving Sessions a lifetime appointment. The committee chairman, Strom Thurmond, somehow managed not to enter the letter into the congressional record, but that didn’t prevent it from having some influence. In particular, Alabama Senator Howell Heflin surprised the Reagan administration by rescinding his earlier support and voting against Sessions in committee. This effectively sunk Sessions’ confirmation hopes.
For a long time, no one could locate a copy of King’s statement, but Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post has managed to unearth it and you can now read it for yourself.
This all happened a mere eighteen years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, which is considerably less time than has elapsed since. Maybe there’s no longer a consensus that King’s work had immense almost sacred value and that people like Sessions are an affront to his legacy. But I think Coretta’s testimony should stand, and it should count for much more when considering Sessions for the position of Attorney General of the United States.
I don’t see anything in Sessions’ subsequent record that would have changed her mind about his suitability for a position of such responsibility and I am certain that she would see Sessions as an outright threat to voting rights and the accomplishments of the movement of which she and her husband were such an important part.