April 6, 2006 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has designated April 7 as Cyril Emmanuel King Day in the Virgin Islands. Turnbull, in a press release issued Thursday, said, "through the dedicated efforts of Gov. Cyril E. King, the social, political and economical standards in the territory were enhanced."
Turnbull directed the commissioner of Education to conduct ceremonies in the schools and asked residents to remember the contributions and services of King, the second elected governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Cyril Emmanuel King was born in Frederiksted, St. Croix, on April 7, 1921, to Martin and Melvina King. He received his early education at St. Ann's and St. Mary's schools. After high school, King enlisted in the military and then enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a bachelor's degree in public administration.
While in the Army, he attained the rank of sergeant and attended Army leadership school in New Orleans, La.
After his military service, King served for 12 years as assistant to Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. He was the first black to serve on the staff of a U.S. senator.
King eventually became Humphrey's senior staff member responsible for research on disarmament for a special Senate subcommittee headed by Humphrey. In 1958 he represented the senator at the Disarmament Conference held by the Post-World War Council.
While employed with Humphrey, King kept close ties with the Virgin Islands. A strong supporter of youth initiatives, King helped organize the Youth Council on St. Croix.
President John F. Kennedy appointed King to serve as governor secretary of the Virgin Islands, later known as the elective post of lieutenant governor, with then Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky. He served in that position from 1961 to 1969, when he was appointed acting governor for approximately four months.
King founded the Independent Citizens Movement and in 1969 announced his candidacy for governor. However, he lost by 807 votes to Melvin Evans, who in 1970 became the first elected governor of the territory.
In 1972 King ran for and was elected senator in the St. Thomas-St. John district. He served one term in the V.I. Legislature.
King ran for governor again in 1974. Three teams of candidates ran in that election and King, along with his running mate, Juan Francisco Luis, won the seat in a runoff election, becoming the second elected governor of the territory.
King was described as a man who was easy to like and had a friendly, gregarious manner. As governor, King instituted austerity measures which included preventing government employees from using government cars for their personal use; demanding a day's work for a day's pay; appointing qualified people for his cabinet in spite of their political affiliation; and proposing that school children pay for bus transportation.
King's vision was that the V.I. government should be run as a business: efficient, productive and streamlined in manpower.
In 1977 King was diagnosed with stomach cancer. On Monday, Jan. 2, 1978, after a prolonged illness, King died. The community went into mourning. In recognition of his passing, the remaining activities of the Crucian Christmas Festival were cancelled that year.
King was married to the late Agnes Agatha Schuster King. The couple had one daughter, Lillia.
King would have celebrated his 85th birthday this year.
The information referenced here is a result of Web-based research, books or newspaper articles. Some information was taken from "The Umbilical Cord: The History of the United States Virgin Islands" by Harold W. L. Willocks and "Trials and Triumphs: The Long Road to a Middle Class Society in the U.S. Virgin Islands," by Earle B. Ottley.
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