ALA Mourns Mabel R. McKissick, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Founder

Contact: Isaac Tufvesson

Communications Specialist, ALA OLOS

(312) 280-2140


For Immediate Release

March 24, 2009

Mabel R. McKissick, co-founder of the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Book Awards, died on Friday, March 20, 2009, at the Bridebrook Rehabilitation Center in Niantic, Conn.

Ms. McKissick and Glyndon Greer, both school librarians, were attending a library association conference in New Jersey in 1969, when they determined, at the suggestion of John Carroll, a publisher and conference exhibitor, the need to recognize African American authors and illustrators of books for children and youth. Mrs. Greer and Mrs. McKissick talked to Mrs. Coretta Scott King and received approval to use her name on the award. They personally made arrangements for annual awards presentations in the same cities as the American Library Association (ALA) from 1970 through 1984.

Effie Lee Morris, who chaired the committee starting in 1981, recalls Mrs. McKissick' s enthusiasm when the award became an official part of the American Library Association in 1984, as a task force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT).

Mrs. McKissick and Mrs. Greer presented the first Coretta Scott King Award to Lillie Patterson for her biography, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man of Peace”(Garrard
), in 1970 at the New Jersey Library Association conference. The two librarians also negotiated the first honorarium with Johnson Publishing Company, a commitment that continues today, and also initiated the first illustrator award in 1974 to George Ford for "Ray Charles," written by Sharon Bell Mathis, (Crowell).

The committee is now affiliated with the ALA Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table, where it welcomes 600-800 attendees to an awards breakfast held at ALA annual conferences and enjoys the continued sponsorship of the Johnson Publishing Company, along with World Book Inc., Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. and DEMCO Inc.

Mrs. McKissick participated in the 25th awards breakfast, where she was recognized by attendees and received a plaque celebrating her vision and leadership in the founding and continuation of the award. Henrietta M. Smith, editor of the four editions of
The Coretta Scott King Award Book (ALA Editions
), remembered Mrs. McKissick' s delight at being recognized at the breakfast and her pride in the development of the award and its growth in libraries, schools and homes since its inception.

More information about Mrs. McKissick and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards may be found at