Mel King, civil rights icon and historic Boston mayoral candidate, dies at 94


Racial Justice

King was the first Black person to make it onto a general election ballot as a candidate for Boston mayor.

Former South End State Rep. Mel King died Tuesday in his home at age 94. John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe

In 1983, former South End state representative Mel King became the first Black person to make it onto a general election ballot as a candidate for Boston mayor.

King, who died Tuesday morning in his home at age 94, will be remembered for his historic achievement, which The Boston Globe said “ushered in a new era” of race relations in Boston.

Photos of King from the last 60 years show the countless ways he made a positive impact on the city throughout his life, and how he remained an important voice in city politics long after his mayoral defeat.

Mel King before his historic mayoral campaign:

Mel King, who ran an employment service for local teenagers, is pictured in his office at the United South End Settlements in South Boston on Jul. 26, 1963. – The Boston Globe
Boston School Committee candidate Mel King speaks during a debate at WGBH-TV studios in Boston on Oct. 26, 1965. – The Boston Globe
Massachusetts State Rep. Mel King speaks to a crowd of anti-nuclear demonstrators during a protest in Plymouth on Jun. 3, 1979. – The Boston Globe
Massachusetts State Sen. Bill Owens and State Rep. Mel King sit during a press conference in which Owens endorsed King in his candidacy for Boston mayor at the Massachusetts State House in Boston on Aug. 6, 1979. – Bill Curtis/The Boston Globe
Boston mayoral candidate Mel King stands at the podium with his wife Joyce during a rally at the Bradford Hotel in Boston on Sep. 25, 1979. – The Boston Globe

Mel King during his historic mayoral campaign:

Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and Boston Mayoral Candidate Mel King at a rally in front of Prince Hall in Roxbury in August 1983. – The Boston Globe
Mel King marches in the Columbus Day parade in the North End in October 1983. – Joe Dennehy/The Boston Globe
Melvin ‘Mel’ H. King celebrates at the Parker House in Boston on Oct. 11, 1983, after finding out he has made it into the final round of elections for Boston mayor. – Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe
Boston mayoral candidates Mel King and Ray Flynn debate each other at the Old South Church on Nov. 7, 1983. – John Blanding/The Boston Globe
Boston mayoral candidates Ray Flynn and Mel King cross paths on their separate campaign itineraries in East Boston on Nov. 9, 1983. – George Rizer/The Boston Globe

Mel King after his historic mayoral campaign:

Mel King waves to the crowd on the Boston Common during an anti-nuclear weapons rally in 1984. – John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe
Former mayoral candidate Mel King talks about the record to date of Boston Mayor Ray Flynn’s administration in his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge on Oct. 9, 1984. – The Boston Globe
Mel King at MIT where he taught urban studies in 1988. – Yunghi Kim/The Boston Globe
Former Massachusetts State Rep. Mel King has a friend adjust his hat at the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta on July 18, 1988. – The Boston Globe

Mel King’s later years:

Byron Rushing, Mel King, and Darryl Settles speak during a Black History Month community forum held at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen in Boston in 2013. – Aram Boghosian/The Boston Globe
Mel King appears for an arraignment after being arrested during a protest at Boston Municipal Court on Oct. 3, 2013. – Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe
Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh stands with Mel King outside Tent City in Boston as King announces his support for Walsh during Walsh’s campaign for mayor in 2013. – Aram Boghosian/The Boston Globe
Former Boston mayoral race opponents Ray Flynn and Mel King talk about their friendship and collaboration to teach schoolchildren about democracy and civic engagement on Sept. 6, 2016. – Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe
Former state legislator Mel King speaks at a ceremony held at the entrance to the Marine Industrial Park in South Boston to dedicate a sign to honor former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn in 2016. – John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe
Mel King is honored by former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who announced he would name a street after King during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast in 2017. – Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe
King at his dedication ceremony to name a new square after him in Boston’s South End neighborhood in November 2021. – Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

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