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Mon, 04.11.1938

Reatha Clark King, Scientist, and Philanthropist born

Reatha Clark King

Reatha Clark King was born on this date in 1938. She is a Black administrator, educator, scientist, and philanthropist.

From Pavo, Georgia, her father, Willie, was a farm laborer who left the family when Reatha was a child. Her mother, Ola Watts Campbell, moved the family to Moultrie, Georgia, where she worked as a domestic to support her three children. Clark-King spent her childhood years working in the cotton fields and on her aunt's farm and landlords' property.

When she started school at age four, she could expect that the necessities of farm life would limit her education. But that one-room schoolhouse at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and her teacher, Florence Frazier, strongly influenced her outlook toward learning and understanding the opportunities that education could provide. She graduated from high school in Moultrie in 1954 as valedictorian. She was awarded a scholarship to attend Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia.

She considered becoming a teacher at her local high school, but a love of chemistry became her focus. After Clark College, she went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Chicago. Upon completing her graduate chemistry program studies, King did research work in fluorine flame colorimetry for six years at the National Bureau of Standards. She then became a professor of chemistry and associate Dean at York College and then moved on to earn her third graduate degree, this time in business. The President of Metropolitan State University in Minnesota for eleven years, she worked to promote opportunities for minorities and women in higher education.

King retired after fourteen years as president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation. She contributes to education, health, social action, the arts, and cultural affairs. Dr. King was the 2004 Louis W. Hill, Jr. Fellow in Philanthropy at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center of the University of Minnesota.  Director, Exxon Mobil; Wells Fargo & Company; Department 56, Inc.; International Trachoma Initiative; Minnesota Mutual Companies, Inc., where she did not vote for the board in 2005.

She is a Trustee at Clark Atlanta University and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She is also a Life Trustee of the University of Chicago. Dr. King receives numerous awards, including 14 honorary doctorate degrees. She was married to Dr. N. Judge King, who died in 2016. They have two married sons and three grandchildren.

To become a Chemist


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