As a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mary Powell helped initiate the courtship between King and Coretta Scott. After his first date with Scott, King told Powell, “I owe you a thousand dollars for introducing me to this girl” (Scott King, 56).
Mary Louise Stamper was born in Atlanta on 7 September 1918. She attended Lincoln Academy in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, and graduated from Spelman College in 1941. She went on to receive her MA from Atlanta University in 1950. She met King while he was studying for his doctorate at Boston University and Powell was attending the New England Conservatory of Music. In early 1952, after King asked Powell if she knew of any “nice, attractive young ladies” for him to date, she described Coretta Scott, her schoolmate at the Conservatory, and gave Scott’s telephone number to King (Scott King, 53). Scott and King were married the following year.
Powell later exchanged letters with King, encouraging him to use the Christian principle, “Love Thy Enemy” in Montgomery, Alabama. Although Powell was supportive of King’s aims, she was sometimes critical of his methods, expressing disapproval of King’s encouragement of mass civil disobedience: “If you and others have earned the right to go to jail, it is your [privilege] if you deem it so. But going to jail on a group basis will accomplish little but confusion” (Powell, 29 February 1960).