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The time Martin Luther King Jr. paid Julia Roberts’ hospital bill

Julia Roberts

Everett Collection | Shutterstock

Sarah Robsdottir - published on 01/16/23

"He really got my parents out of a jam," Roberts explained with her trademark smile.

Last fall, the Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts turned 55 and revealed that the late, great civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King paid her hospital bill when she was born. The information came out in an interview with Gayle King of OprahDaily (no relation to Martin Luther King Jr., whom we celebrate today). 

In the interview, which was a part of A&E Network’s and History Channel’s History Talks, Roberts complimented Gayle on her in-depth research and went on to explain that her parents ran a theater school in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1960s called the Actors’ and Writers’ Workshop. She explained that Coretta Scott King had trouble finding a theater school that would accept her Black children, but that Julia’s parents welcomed them with open arms.

The King children enrolled in the acting school, and the Roberts and King families quickly became close friends in a way that the actress explained was “fundamental to her childhood.” They were so close that when Julia’s parents couldn’t afford the hospital bill when she was born, the Kings covered the cost: “They really got us out of a jam,” Julia explained with her trademark smile. 

While interviewer Gayle King covered lots more ground in her September interview with Roberts, discussing the actress’s family life and career, this particular uncovered gem of how the lives of these two well-known individuals, Martin Luther King Jr. and Julia Roberts, were connected certainly resonated in the public sphere in a powerful way.

The story quickly went viral on social media. Perhaps because it’s simply a fascinating curiosity. But perhaps folks like to be reminded that public figures are really just ordinary people like them — with pesky bills to pay, in need of meaningful activities for their kids, and ever-grateful for the selfless deeds of loving, compassionate friends. 

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