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Funeral set for Rita Samuels, civil rights pioneer, at MLK's spiritual home of Ebenezer Baptist

Samuels was a trailblazer in the arena of civil rights for decades.
Rita Jackson Samuels

ATLANTA - During the same week the world remembered the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a celebration of life service is set for Saturday for Rita Jackson Samuels, at the spiritual home of King himself.

Services begin at noon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young and Rev. Joseph Lowery are expected to speak.

Samuels died on March 27 at age 72.

Samuels met Atlanta civil rights leader John H. Calhoun, who connected her to a job opportunity at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She would go on to serve several SCLC presidents, including Ralph David Abernathy, Lowery and Martin Luther King III.

Young and Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. officiated at Samuels' wedding in 1972.

Samuels also established Women Flying High, LLC, a small business instrumental in forming alliances and joint ventures increasing women's share of government contracts, and the Georgia Coalition of Black Women. She is credited with helping to launch the careers of several black female leaders from rural counties, including mayors, commissioners and judges.

Samuels became the first black female in the state's history to serve on the personal staff of a Georgia governor under Jimmy Carter's tenure. She was appointed the task to direct and coordinate the hanging of the Martin Luther King, Jr., portrait, an act in the mid 1970's that drew attention from the Ku Klux Klan, which rallied in protest.

When Carter was elected president, she moved on to work in the White House in 1977 with the Community Services Administration.

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