Verna King was a popular San Diegan. From her impeccable appearance and career pursuits to her dedicated and determined work in the community, her presence and her voice took center stage. Verna Lee St. Clair was born 1916, in Berwick, Louisiana, the youngest of 12 children. She was a 1937 graduate of Wiley College in Texas where she was named, “Miss Louisiana State.”
Verna arrived in San Diego in 1942, and taught high school for one year before marrying Alonzo King and having five children. In 1969 she received a modeling degree, and in 1970 a teaching certification from the University of California and earned a M.Ed. from SDSU in 1977. Mrs. King tutored parents on how to lobby for themselves and their children and connected them with critical social services.
Verna’s friends and family recall her capacity for making people feel welcomed, valued, and appreciated. Politicians, educators, community activists, and family members alike talk about Verna’s flair for entertaining and sharing stories about the gatherings she hosted and her culinary skills. Verna worked in advocacy positions in the San Diego Teachers Association, and The National Education Association, as well as the California Teachers Association where she was part of the Black Caucus.
The Democratic party recognized Verna’s political presence in the early 1940’s and her presence and influence in the organization continued throughout her life and beyond. She was vice-chair of the 79th Assembly District Committee, served on the 44th Congressional Advisory Committee and was a charter member of the SD Council of Democratic Women. Verna’s involvement in the community and politics allowed her to interact and work with individuals such as Coretta Scott King, Andrew Young, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, Alan Cranston, and Tom Bradley.
Verna is listed in prominent annuals and received many awards in recognition of her professional and community service. She received a Key to the City of San Diego for her outstanding work in the field of human relations, and the City Council proclaimed April 4, 2015 as “Verna King Day” in honor of her lifetime of service. She was also involved in the San Diego Democrats for Equality and in 2011, a guest at a White House reception celebrating LGBT Pride Month and met President Barak Obama. A natural mediator, she was an ally who helped to ensure LGBT representation within the Democratic Party.
Verna was a founding member, president of Epsilon Xi Omega, the local Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. A scholarship is presented in her name at the annual AKA Sorority, Inc, EXO Chapter, Scholarship Awards Program. She was a champion of civil rights and worked tirelessly throughout her life to improve the lives of others in the sorority, her church, and the community. Verna King passed away in 2015.
Submitted by Joyce Suber, AKA/EXO Chapter Historian