What a life Robert Moore King, Sr. lived! He was born in the small town of Waukegan, Illinois, reared in the small city of Joliet, Illinois, and lived his adult life in the somewhat smaller city of Waco, Texas. But make no mistake, Bob made a big impact wherever he lived.
Rev. Thomas Moore King and Lillian Ann Warren King bore their last child and only son, Robert Moore, on July 20, 1935. Because T. Moore King was the national secretary for the National Baptist Convention, Bob was bounced on the knee of the then president of the Convention, Martin Luther King, Sr. Musically gifted like his older sister Thomasina, Bob had a golden voice. He attended Joliet Township High School. Because of his race, he was originally forbidden from joining certain parts of the school vocal performance program; however, after protesting, he appeared in his first opera in the high school—the first African American at his school to do so.
Bob graduated from Joliet Junior College in 1955. Upon graduation, T. Moore asked Bob if he wanted to get his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse in Atlanta, Georgia, or from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. Bob, recognizing his passion for justice and equality, chose Bishop, reasoning that he might be killed in racial confrontations in Atlanta. He enrolled into Bishop in 1955. As a youngster, Thurgood Marshall, examined Bob, “You’re going to be an Alpha, right?” Daddy affirmed and made good on that promise at Bishop in 1956. He also joined the Bishop choir, where he soon became a lead soloist. On the bus during a choir trip, he heard the distinct voice of beauty from Waco, Texas. Though he tried to hide it with jokes, he was smitten with Doris Jean Friday. They were married on August 15, 1958, after both graduated from Bishop.
Soon after the wedding, Bob departed for Germany, by way of Fort Hood, Texas, having been drafted into the Army earlier in the year. He proudly and honorably served our country until 1961. Soon after his discharge and return to the U.S., Bob began work with the Veterans Administration Office, retiring from there in 1994, having attained GS 13 during his tenure.
Bob also joined New Hope Baptist Church. He became a deacon and continued in that role until his passing. He also began one of his greatest passions: directing the New Hope Baptist Church Choir. Bob fashioned New Hope’s into a show choir, filling New Hope with sounds of excellence weekly. The choir concerts filled the balcony of New Hope with people savoring the sounds of “his” choir. Under his leadership, the choir recorded its first and only album. His musical exploits did not stop at New Hope, however. Bob was cast in several musicals and operas in Waco, demonstrating his huge vocal range from singing rich bass as Joe in Show Boat, to belting as a sonorous tenor as Porgy in Porgy and Bess.
One of the lasting contributions Bob King made was his work in the Civil Rights Movement, helping to bring equality to African Americans in the Waco area. Bob, along with others, received assistance from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when the LaVega School District fired all but one of its Black teachers en masse. Bob encouraged and led Black families to boycott, keeping their children out of school. After several days, the School District capitulated, because of the financial losses which accompanied the loss of the students. Bob continued to lead these and similar efforts without pay, despite receiving credible threats upon his life, which at one point led to FBI surveillance and protection.
Much later, Bob became a member of the Waco Equal Employment Advisory Committee and the Waco Regional Airport Board. He and the members of the latter board oversaw the renovation and expansion of the Airport buildings, ensuring their current, modernized conditions. Bob was also the foreman for many Waco Grand Juries, preventing those who seemed innocent from being prosecuted and those who seemed guilty from being released.
Besides demanding justice, and enjoying music, Bob LOVED his family. He and Doris received their niece, Rolanda René into their home when she was nine months old, raising her as their own. They also often stepped in loco parentis for his nephews, Tonii and Duane Greene, when their mother, Tommie, needed assistance. Even more, when they met a college student, Vernon Camp, selling books door-to-door, they welcomed him into their home and later adopted him in an effort to keep him from returning to the apartheid in his home, Swaziland, South Africa. At some points, Bob and Doris had six children in the house—one college student, four teenagers, and one toddler.
Bob’s great love of family reached to his extended family. He, along with Cousin Fannie Fontenot, started the Shorter-King Family Reunion in the early 1980s. The reunion brought together hundreds of family members from all over the United States biannually. To be sure, many of his female cousins were his sisters, and many of his male cousins were his brothers.
But he had another set of brothers—his Alpha Phi Alpha brothers. True to his commitment to Thurgood Marshall, Bob became a life member of AΦA and supported his fraternity personally and financially for the rest of his life. He was elected president of the Waco chapter many times and represented that chapter at state, regional, and national levels for many years. In the early 1970s, Bob was elected the Southwestern Regional Vice-President of Alpha Phi Alpha: he was the man in charge of all Alpha chapters in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. In that role, he worked very closely with Ernest “Dutch” Morial, who was the General President. Dutch also happened to later become the first African American mayor of New Orleans. In 1993, Bob started the first Baylor University Undergraduate Chapter of AΦA and continued for many years as its graduate advisor. On March 5, 2020, Bob was inducted into the Alpha Phi Alpha Hall of Fame.
The absolute most important thing that ever happened to Bob was his decision, later in life, to receive Jesus Christ into his life as Lord and Savior. Early on the day he passed, he sang “church songs” to himself and Jesus. He, Doris, Rob, and Rhonda sang hymns later the day; and just hours before he passed, he tried to direct Rhonda in singing “Blessed Assurance” as he had done many times at New Hope.
Besides his parents, his sister, Lillian Francis, he was predeceased by a sister, Thomasina Greene, and son, Vernon Camp. He leaves behind his wife of sixty-two years, Doris Jean (Friday) King of Waco, Texas. Bob had no in-laws: his children, Rolanda René Burns (Nate) Burns of Waco, Texas; Rhonda Harmon (Jonathan) of Manakin Sabot, Virginia; Rob King, Jr., and Serge Khattar both of Dallas, Texas; seven grandchildren, Andrea (Camp) Olukoga (Olufela) of Houston, Texas; Victor Whitney (Kiara) of Austin Texas; Meagan Golightly (Henry) of Houston, Texas; Timothy Harmon of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; Krista, Jeremy, and Jana Harmon all of Manakin Sabot, Virginia; four great-grandchildren, Jaylen, Caiden, Zoey, and Henry; nephews, Tonii Greene (Tricia), Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Duane Greene (Annie), Houston, Texas; daughter (in-law) Angela Singletary (Walter), Reading, Pennsylvania; and a host of close cousins, including, but not limited to, Clement King, Barbara Jean Madison, Sam Shorter, Frank McKinley, Moselle Dearbone, Fran James, and their families.
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