AP file
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2nd right, is flanked by his wife, Coretta Scott King, right, and his secretary, Dora McDonald, center, as King is welcomed on arrival in Oslo, Norway, in this Dec. 8, 1964 file photo.
updated 1/14/2007 7:00:50 PM ET 2007-01-15T00:00:50

Dora McDonald, secretary for Martin Luther King Jr., died just days before the national holiday that honors her former boss. She was 81.

McDonald died Saturday of complications from cancer at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, hospital spokesman Lance Skelly said Sunday.

King entrusted his family to McDonald’s care when he was in jail or traveling, and it was McDonald who told Coretta Scott King that her husband had been assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.

McDonald started working for the civil rights leader in 1960 and quickly became his confidant and adviser.

In a 1989 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McDonald described her role as King’s secretary at Ebenezer Baptist Church and later at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as “a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job.”

“But there was never a time — and I can say this in all truthfulness, from the time I went to work for him until his death — that I regretted what I was doing or where I was at that moment,” she said.

McDonald never married or had children, and has no immediate survivors.

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