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Boston and Massachusetts state leaders react to death of activist Mel King

On Nov. 13, 2021, Melvin H 'Mel' King arrived to the dedication of a new Square, named in his honor in Boston's South End neighborhood.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Massachusetts political leaders paid homage to former state representative and political activist Mel King, who died Tuesday morning at the age of 94 in his South End home.

King, who in 1983 became the first Black person to reach a Boston mayoral general election, was remembered for his role in improving race relations in the city.

City Council President Ed Flynn, whose father, Raymond Flynn, defeated King in the 1983 mayoral race, said King “made Boston a better city for all of us” and was a dear family friend.

“Throughout his life, Mel King worked tirelessly to bring out the best in people and help heal a divided city,” Flynn said. “He is an example of how words, actions and leadership can make a difference.”


Senator Edward J. Markey said King’s legacy will live on in those fighting for justice, calling him a “trailblazer in all of its forms: civil rights leader, grassroots organizer, educator, writer, legislator.”

“From the time we were sworn in together as young State Representatives, to the long hours spent working in the legislature, Mel changed my life, as well as the lives of the Boston communities he fought for day in and day out,” Markey wrote. “For you, Mel, we will never stop fighting.”

US Senator Elizabeth Warren also paid tribute to King’s legacy.

“Mel King’s persistent fight for justice demonstrated exactly who he was: bold, unapologetic, and rooted in community he loved,” Warren posted on Twitter. “My heart goes out to his family and every corner of Boston his leadership forever changed.”

Gov. Maura Healey said “the work and legacy of Mel King reverberate throughout Boston and well beyond the borders of Massachusetts.” Mayor Michelle Wu said King’s ideas shaped generations of leaders.

“On behalf of the City of Boston, we send our deepest condolences to the King family and the many, many loved ones, mentees, and friends of Mel,” Wu said in a statement. “For decades, Mel King taught us all how to serve, how to build, and how to love.”


Wu’s words were echoed by her predecessor, Martin J. Walsh.

“A trailblazing civil rights icon and a blessing to our city,” wrote Walsh, now executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association. “Mel King: rest in power, my friend.”

State Senator Lydia Edwards wrote a tribute to King, saying he was dedicated to “revolutionary connection,” radical political ideas, and love.

“All I can say is thank you,” Edwards wrote. “Thank you Mel for fighting, running, laughing, and living. Rest in power.”

City Councilor Kendra Lara said King’s death is a devastating loss for the community.

“Mel King was a giant, his legacy and work one of my greatest teachers,” Lara wrote on Twitter. “I pray the ancestors receive him with the love, grace, and reverence he deserves.”

Even people who had never met King personally posted heartfelt tributes on social media, including NBC Boston reporter Glenn Jones.

“When news of Mel King’s death broke I was in a room of Boston’s distinguished men of color,” Jones tweeted. “Titans were hit with a very heavy blow. Some moved to tears. I never met Mel King but tonight I felt the weight of what he meant to this city. Rest well, Legend.”

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Claire Law can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @claire_law_.