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Former Massachusetts Legislator and Green-Rainbow Party Co-founder Melvin H. King Dies

Long-time civil rights activist and Boston-based community organizer Melvin H. King passed away on Tuesday evening. King was 94 years old. GBH News, a Boston local news outlet, confirmed King’s passing with his son on Tuesday evening.

King established himself as a community activist at a young age. After leaving college, he began working with at-risk communities as the director of Boy’s Work at Lincoln House, a settlement house in Boston’s South End community. After that, he became director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston.

King ran for office several times, eventually finding electoral success in the Massachusetts legislature. He would serve five terms, winning his first campaign in 1972. His advocacy attracted a broad coalition of supporters diverse across race and class lines. A decade later, he would utilize this intersectional support in a heated run for Boston mayor against incumbent Raymond Flynn, where he became the first black mayoral candidate in Boston to ascend to the general election.

While unsuccessful in his mayoral campaign, King’s political organizing and the coalition he built would give way to the Rainbow Coalition Party. The party would focus on local and state elections.

Soon after, his party and approach to coalition building would serve as a model for the national Rainbow Coalition organized by Rev. Jesse Jackson during his presidential campaign. The Rainbow Coalition name would additionally be adopted by psychotherapist and future New Alliance Party leader Lenora Fulani, who established the “Rainbow Lobby” with Dr. Fred Newman to benefit smaller political parties.

The Rainbow Coalition Party would operate in Boston politics for about two decades before finally merging with the Massachusetts Green Party in 2002 and forming the “Green-Rainbow Party.” That same year, King endorsed the fledgling party’s Jill Stein in her 2002 candidacy for governor, saying at the time that Stein was the only candidate “that makes issues of racism and social justice integral parts of her campaign.”

The Rainbow Coalition and Green Party remain recognized political designations in Massachusetts today, although neither are functional parties. The Green-Rainbow Party remains the official Massachusetts state affiliate of the Green Party.

While King wouldn’t run for office again in his later life, he remained visible in Green-Rainbow Party and Boston city politics. He served as the campaign manager for M. K. Merelice, the party’s 2014 state auditor candidate. Additionally, in 2009, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, in conjunction with the Boston branch of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, formed the Mel King Institute for Community Building.

Melvin King is survived by his wife and six children.

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