Willie Mae Hogue King in Asheville (picture circa. 1950), or “Mama King,” as she is known, went to be with the Lord July 9 at age 89.
She accomplished so much and touched so many over the seven decades that she called Hendersonville home.
A popular Hendersonville park is named after Mama King’s community activist husband, William Harry ‘Pop’ King.
Mr. King is the first person of color/African American to have a recreational park named after him, as a bedrock of the community, and part of a true power broker couple engaged in community activism, engagement, and sustainability. True to the African proverb of ‘it takes a village’, the Kings (along with their inlaws) supported numerous families in need such as Senator Corey Booker’s father and grandmother back in the days. Community members truly looked out for one another during great need back then.
Mama King was born October 19, 1928, in Marion, AL, to the late Lottie H. Jones. She graduated from Lincoln Normal High School in 1946, and at age 20 moved from AL to Asheville to attended Beauty School. Her childhood friends included (best) Jean Childs (future wife of Andrew Young – Mayor of Atlanta and Ambassador) and Coretta Scott (wife of MLK) – Marion has under-recognized contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1951, Mama King married the love of her life, the late William H. “Pop” King. They enjoyed a blissful and blessed life together for 30 years. While Mama King pursued numerous employment opportunities to support her family as a licensed beautician and domestic worker, she often engaged in community service work alongside “Pop”. Putting in sweat equity was something she did not shy away from either. Even after his passing, she remained active in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Vacation Bible School, and Community Watch. One of her lasting legacies is the Apple Country Shuttle picking up hemodialysis patients throughout Henderson County. She, too, benefited from this transportation service as she managed her chronic illness (end-stage renal disease) for nearly 25 years.
Mama King was well-known for her cooking and baking prowess—her sweet potato pies were legendary too. Those pies circumnavigated the globe (e.g., Mexico, Panama, France) reaching a bevy of people including U.S. and foreign ambassadors in such places as Brazil, Haiti, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Thailand.
King is survived by her children, Edward L. King (Corinthia King), Irvin D. King, Alfred J. King (Pamela King), and Alton J. King (Kimberly Wright-King). She also leaves behind a granddaughter Amalia J. King, adopted granddaughter Michelle Johnson, step great-grandson Yuriel Thomas Copeland, step-grandchildren Courtney Whiteside and Arian Boyd, brother Walter Greene (IN), sisters Doris (Doll) Brown (MD), Callie (Honey) Gordy (MD), and Carolyn Thompson (AL), as well as a host of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.