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Wednesday, January 25, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kentucky Woman Says She Had Affair With King

AP

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A former Kentucky state senator says she had a year-long affair with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was with him at the Lorraine Motel the night before he was assassinated there.

Georgia Powers discussed the relationship in her new autobiography, "I Shared the Dream," and in an interview in today's Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper.

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King's lieutenant in the civil-rights movement, created a furor five years ago when he suggested in his memoirs that King cheated on his wife.

Abernathy also wrote of a liaison King had the night before he was killed with "a black woman . . . a member of the Kentucky Legislature," but he did not name her.

"The relationship between Martin Luther King Jr. and I began with mutual admiration," Powers wrote. "Gradually, our attachment grew stronger until it passed beyond camaraderie into intimacy."

An assistant for King's widow, Coretta Scott King, said she was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

In 1967, Powers became the first black person elected to the Kentucky state Senate. Her relationship with King began in March that year, she told the Courier-Journal. They had met three years earlier at a Louisville civil-rights march.

Powers wrote that she and King were careful to keep their relationship secret, and that she faltered only when he was shot April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

"When they put Dr. King into the ambulance, I instinctively began climbing in to go with him. Andy Young gently pulled me back. `No, Senator,' he said, `I don't think you want to do that.' "

Young, a King aide who became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta mayor, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Powers, who retired in 1988, told the Courier-Journal she decided to write about the relationship because "I had to be honest about my life story."

"It was one year out of 71 years of living," Powers said. "It was not the greatest part of my life, but it was something that happened in my life. All these years, I had the fear I was going to be exposed. I no longer have the fear."

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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