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Julia Roberts says Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King paid the hospital bill for her birth

The actor’s parents, Betty Lou Bredemus and Walter Grady Roberts, became good friends with the civil rights leaders in the 1960s.
Julia Roberts.
Julia Roberts.Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP file
/ Source: TODAY

In honor of Julia Roberts’ 55th birthday, fans are recirculating the unbelievable historical fact that connects her to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

As Roberts celebrated her birthday Friday, social media users discussed a video of a conversation she had with journalist Gayle King in September, when she spoke about how the civil rights leaders helped her parents.

A person tweeted a clip of Roberts’ talk with King at A&E Networks and History Channel’s “HISTORYTalks” event in Washington, D.C., writing in the caption, “Can’t stop thinking about this since I read it.”

In the video, King asked Roberts to explain what happened the day she was born and reveal who paid for her hospital bill.

“OK, her research is very good,” Roberts, the Academy Award-winning star of “Erin Brockovich,” told the crowd. “The King family paid for my hospital bills.” 

Gayle King emphasized the significance and clarified: “Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Why did they do that?”

Roberts said her parents, Betty Lou Bredemus and Walter Grady Roberts, could not afford to pay the hospital bill after she was born in 1967. 

“My parents had a theater school in Atlanta called the Actors and Writers Workshop,” she said. “And one day Coretta Scott King called my mother and asked if her kids could be part of the school because they were having a hard time finding a place that would accept her kids. And my mom was like: ‘Sure. Come on over.’” 

She added, “And so they just all became friends, and they helped us out of a jam.”

King called the relationship between Roberts’ parents and the Kings “extraordinary” and said the historical figures’ act of kindness created a “groundwork” that shaped Roberts.

Roberts replied, “Oh, absolutely.”

Below the video, a person tweeted: “Wow, I didn’t know that. MLK and his family set the bar very high. Bless them.”

Another said: “I’ve always found Julia Roberts to be an amazing actress, and definitely in my top 3 of all times. This story leaves me with a lot of PURE joy because now I’ve learned she is an amazing human being as well.” 

Although many Twitter users commented that they were not familiar with Roberts’ backstory, her connection to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King has surfaced before

Last year, the digital publication Obsev wrote about the racism and bigotry Bredemus and her husband faced for allowing Black children to attend their acting school.

As Obsev reported, one of those children was the Kings’ daughter Yolanda King, who died in 2007 at age 51. 

Yolanda King was cast as the love interest of a white actor in one of the school’s productions, and the two shared a kiss in a scene.

The other young actor was Phillip DePoy, who penned an essay for ARTS ATL in 2013 detailing his experience at the school. He revealed a car exploded near the theater after their kiss. 

DePoy, an award-winning author and playwright, recalled being 15 years old in the summer of 1965 when the explosion occurred. 

“A man, a tangential member of the Ku Klux Klan, had seen me kiss Yolanda the day before in the same parking lot,” he wrote. “The Klansman had come around the day before the explosion in order to make trouble. The workshop was offering a free show in the Carver Homes housing project, an exclusively African-American wonderland filled with hammered lives and children with nothing to do. The guy only heckled us the first day, said words that everyone had heard a million times before, finished his case of PBR, and was about to leave when I kissed Yolanda.”

He said Yolanda King was dressed as a terrapin and he was wearing a fox costume for the scene. After their kiss, a Buick “ten yards away” began to burn. 

“Yolanda and I stared at each other,” DePoy wrote. “Rob came to the side of the stage and said something to the crowd. I couldn’t hear what it was, but almost everyone laughed and some applauded. Then he turned to us and said, ‘And the next line is?’” 

He continued: “Yolanda King spent the rest of her life involved in theater; my brother, Scott DePoy, who had joined the workshop before I had, continues to work all over the Southeast. Eric Roberts eventually went to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. I understand that even his younger sister got involved in acting.” 

In a 2001 interview with CNN, Yolanda King spoke about attending the Actors and Writers Workshop. 

“Mr. Roberts was so imposing,” she said at the time. “I loved him, but I was also a little intimidated by him, too. And — but he was — I mean, he taught me so much, and he and Mrs. Roberts, about the work, and just about living and being really open, grabbing life and making the best of it.”

She also said she met Julia Roberts for the first time at a workshop in Atlanta. 

She said: “It was an extended family. It really was. And all of these Black kids and white kids getting along, no problems. We had no problems whatsoever, racial problems.”