Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Eugene & Melba King



Eugene and Melba King


Source: Alaska Bahá’í News

                             September/October 1999   Number 429


    Bahá’í Tlingit Elder Eugene King 1918-1999


Eugene King was born on September 25, 1918 in Haines, Alaska and died at the Mount Edgecumbe Hospital on September 20,1999 at the age of 80.


His parents, Charles King, Sr. of Angoon, and Gladys James King of Sitka, his three brothers – Charles, Richard, and Roy, and two sisters – Ida and Pearl all preceded him to the next world. Mr. King was a Tlinget of the Eagle Tribe, Kaag-Wam-Taan Clan, Wolf House.


Melba King in Tacoma in 1958


After the passing of his mother, Eugene went to the Haines House Orphanage in 1917 through 1921, and then was raised by his aunt, Ruth Hayes of Juneau.  He then went to Sheldon Jackson from 1929 to 1937.


Eugene was twelve years old when he enrolled in the Sheldon Jackson High School, and stayed at that boarding school until his graduation.  There he worked as the early morning fireman, took courses in vocational g in Machinery and Plumbing, and worked in the school’s hydroelectric plant with diesel oil burners.  Eugene took part in the usual occasions such as the Easter Sunrise Service, and was in the Church Choir, often singing at the Sitka Pioneer Home.  He was an avid student of the Holy Bible, often pondering the mysterious questions of the Bible.  He always participated in Field Day events, the Sheldon Jackson Fellowship activities, the school band, and the midweek Prayer Services.  He played Varsity Basketball as well as Track, and held the record High Jump at 5’10” for many years.  He also played Soccerball, Football and was in Amateur Boxing.  He earned good grades with hopes of going on to college.  Eugene graduated in May 1937.  In 1938, Eugene began – working on the Sheldon Jackson Presbyterian missionary boat, the Princeton Hall where he took a beginner’s course in Navigation.  They traveled constantly, held meetings in small communities, sometimes helping in repairs and maintenance of community churches, picking up students to attend Sheldon Jackson, delivered groceries to ministers in outlying communities, and ran mercy missions where they would pick up people needing hospital attention.


Eugene began having problems with his eyes about 1938 or 1939 and he began losing his eyesight in 1942.  In 1945, likely due to Tuberculosis in the eyes, he was diagnosed with only 2% vision.  Eugene said losing his sight never really concerned him He always had the idea that it was for a reason, so it never really bothered him.


Eugene worked for Northwest Sheetmetal Works at Kent, Washington during the War until work began winding down when he went to Seattle to find work and attended the Washington Training Center for the blind.  He found work as a weaver, making baby blankets and neckties.  There he met Melba Call of Kotzebue.  Melba was blind from birth.  She had just returned from New Mexico, teaching newly-blinded adults.  They were married in September 1944.  She taught him how to use a cane, how to maneuver around Seattle by bus, and some Braille., which she knew very well. At that time, Melba taught him the Bahá’í Faith.


In 1952, they moved to Tacoma where they attended many Bahá’í social activities and public meetings. Eugene began to think of those unanswered questions he had stored up from the Bible and began studying the Bahá’í Faith.  Eventually, he could not disprove what he learned while attending Sheldon Jackson.  He told his wife, Melba, “You know, I think I believe in this, I think I would like to be a Bahá’í.” That was on November 30, 1954.


A few days before that, Eugene had a dream.  He said he “got up one night and went into the living room and moved to his right.  The whole living room was aglow, then the walls, the ceiling and floor were all covered with leaves of gold, with a bright light toward the left where he saw a robed man with a black beard and. a long robe standing with a kindly look,” and He looked at Eugene as if he could see right through him.  The next night he was to meet with the Spiritual Assembly of Tacoma, and he was seated at the same place he stood the night before.  The Spiritual Assembly asked him some questions about the history of the Bahá’í Faith.  Eugene said he didn’t know much, but he believed in Bahá’u’lláh.  There he signed a Declaration card.  He said this was his physical act of a spiritual transformation.


Eugene gave his first talk on the Bahá’í Faith about Life after Death six months later.  He was elected Vice-Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Tacoma that same year and the following year he was elected Chairman, serving in that post for several years.  Eventually, they returned to Seattle where he also served as Chairman for many years.


Eugene and Melba moved to Douglas, Alaska to teach the tenets of the Bahá’í Faith to the Native people under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly of Alaska.  He traveled to Hoonah during the late 1950’s to early 1960.  He also went to Angoon, Fort Yukon, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nenana, Southeast, Cordova, and Valdez.  He was elected to the Spiritual Assembly of Douglas and that year was elected a delegate to the Bahá’í National Convention, then in 1970 he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly.  He served on that body in 1970-71.  Eugene and Melba moved back to Seattle for health reasons in April 1972.  Eugene returned to Juneau, Alaska in November 1979 after Melba passed away and was once again elected to the National Spiritual Assembly from 1980 to 1991, when poor health forced his resignation.






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