N. Judge King, Ph.D., indeed a man for all seasons, succumbed to lung cancer on May 26 following a life and career of 78 years as an educator, entrepreneur, activist, scientist, altruist and more, including building and piloting airplanes. Most of all he prevailed as a humanist with solid sense of commitment to community.
On an intimately personal note, Dr. Reatha Clark King, faithfully devoted, beloved wife of 52 years, also reflects, “We had a long, long wonderful marriage and he was a special husband. Judge took pride in…family and in advising younger men how to keep their family together.
“He had a good sense of humor and was generous with advice. Judge would say that it is okay for a man to be a ‘trailing’ spouse, which was his stance when the family [moved] to Minnesota. It was a job opportunity for [me] that originally brought the family [here].”
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, a cradle of the historic Civil Rights Movement, King relocated to the Twin Cities in 1977 and, thereafter, called Minneapolis home. He was a role model of self-sufficiency, in particular, for the idea of African American manhood.
He believed in education. “I never saw a new book,” he is quoted as saying, “until I went away to college.” Graduating Parker High School, he attended Morehouse College and made up for lost time, majoring in chemistry and math. He then went on to Atlanta University for his master’s in chemistry and the halls of Howard University, from which he received a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry, as well as to Hofstra University for an MBA.
Throughout his life, he also made time to contribute as a community volunteer. Reatha King reflects, “After graduation from Morehouse, he moved to Chicago where he worked at first as a cab driver, which helped him to quickly ‘learn’ the city.” You learn the city, you learn the people. Part and parcel of N. Judge’s passage, his journey, was that he never lost touch with the grassroots.
Ms. King goes on to state, “Along with his multifaceted work life, Judge is known by his extensive community and volunteer work. These include the entire family’s involvement with their church in each community where they have lived, from Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul to Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He served in the church choir and scouting programs. He has long been involved in civil rights, educational issues, child advocacy work, and providing philanthropic support for community needs, particularly youth development.”
She looks back over her memories to add, “He enjoyed singing and participating in activities sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In Minnesota, he volunteered with the St. Paul Urban League, served as an AMICUS Big Brother, was a member of the Minnesota Board of Teaching and the nonprofit EVERYBODY WINS!, which provides mentoring services in schools.
“He was very active with pilots’ associations and served as president of NAI — Negro Airmen International, Inc. Judge had a knack for summarizing. Perhaps his favorite way was to say, ‘I am just a paper boy from Birmingham, Alabama’.”
He is survived by wife Dr. Reatha Clark-King; sons N. Judge “Jay” King III and Scott Clark King; daughter-in-law Kristin N. King; and grandchildren Kayla, MacKensey, and N. Judge King IV. He also is survived by his sister, Loventrice King.
A Homegoing Celebration was held on Tuesday, June 3 at 11 am at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, 3355 4th Street North in Minneapolis.
— By Dwight Hobbes