April 7, 2003 – Monday was proclaimed Cyril Emmanuel King Day in the Virgin Islands in honor of the territory's second elected governor, who was born on April 7, 1921.
King was graduated from St. Mary's Catholic School in Christiansted and earned a bachelor's degree in public administration at American University in Washington, D.C. He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and was later active in veterans' affairs in the territory. For 12 years, he was an aide to Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D., Minnesota) — the first African-American to join the staff of a U.S. senator, according to a Government House release.
He represented Humphrey at a disarmament conference held in 1958 by the Post World War Council and Committee for World Development and World Disarmament.
Meanwhile, in 1955, at the direction of the V.I. Legislature, he conducted studies of the territorial government's 1,300 employees that became the basis for the grading of jobs within the classified system.
In 1961, President Kennedy named King to be secretary of the V.I. government, the position then equivalent to lieutenant governor today. Ralph Paiewonsky was governor at the time, and in 1969, when Paiewonsky retired, King was named acting governor, a position he held for more than four months.
The race for the territory's first elected governor, in 1970, was a three-way affair, with King the Independent Citizens Movement candidate, Melvin Evans — the incumbent appointive governor — the Republican standard bearer, and Alexander Farrelly the Democratic hopeful. In the runoff, King lost to Evans.
In 1972, King was elected to the V.I. Senate from the St. Thomas-St. John district. Two years later, the same three candidates vied for governor, this time King besting Farrelly in the runoff to become the territory's second elected chief executive. He succeeded Evans in 1975 but died in 1978 without completing his term.
Easily recognizable from afar by his shock of prematurely white hair, King was a popular governor who liked to "press the flesh," often strolling along Main Street to greet visitors in an era when tourism was fast taking off in the territory.
The St. Thomas airport was renamed in King's honor during the Farrelly administration when a new terminal was erected to replace the former naval hangar at what had been called the Harry S Truman Airport.
King is survived by his wife, Agnes, and their daughter, Lillia.
Succeeding governors have declared his birth date Cyril E. King Day, although it is not a government holiday. A Government House release distributed on Monday said that along with issuing the proclamation, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull had "directed the commissioner of Education to conduct appropriate ceremonies n the territorial public school system" in honor of King, "and to disseminate biographical information on this outstanding native son."
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