Florence King, civic activist, dies in her 70s

Florence King, civic activist, dies in her 70s
King, originally born in Fairfax County, served on numerous boards and commissions in the city, including the Commission on Employment and the Alexandria Historical Resources Commission. (Photo credit: Steven Halperson/Tisara Photography)

By Olivia Anderson | oanderson@alextimes.com

Florence King, an Alexandria Living Legend and 2021 Civil Council candidate, died in her home on the morning of Dec. 9 after a brief illness. She was in her early 70s.

The longtime Alexandrian lived in the city for more than 30 years and, in that time, worked as a city elections officer, served as vice chair of the Alexandria Historical Resources Commission, served as chairwoman of the city’s Commission on Employment, sat on the Board of Trustees for the Alexandria Symphony and founded FMK Credit Education Center, a financial literacy nonprofit.

The news came as a surprise to friends and residents, many of whom knew King well.

Jordan Wright, a close friend of King’s, remembered the late Living Legend as “smart, funny, kind and gracious with a ready smile.”

“Friends and family are in shock and grief at the sudden loss of this extraordinarily accomplished and vibrant lady,” Wright said. “Florence gave generously of her many talents, conducting classes in financial literacy as a volunteer and as a professional business consultant in the world of finance … I will miss her greatly.”

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who served with King on three different boards, praised King’s kindness and positivity in a Facebook message.

“I am deeply saddened to learn that Florence King, Alexandria Living Legend & a stalwart of our community, has passed away,” Bennett-Parker wrote. “Her positive impact on our community will live on for generations.”

King was the descendent of Thomasine and Thornton Gray. Thornton was a freed slave at Mt. Vernon while Thomasine was enslaved there until emancipated following the death of George Washington in 1799. King was born in Fairfax County and graduated from George Mason University with a degree in sociology and a minor in business administration. During this time she worked at Equifax, a major credit reporting company.

She went on to work for the federal government for 17 years before founding FMK Credit Services in 1991, the FMK Credit Education Center in 2005 and FMK Financial Literacy Center in 2016. The nonprofit works to promote financial stability for disadvantaged families and seniors through education programs.

During her time in Alexandria, she gave her time to numerous boards, commissions and organizations. Throughout her time in the city, King never forgot the city and region’s Black history and sought to preserve her family’s legacy. She served on the Freedmen’s Cemetery Memorial Steering Committee and as recording secretary of the Laurel Grove School Association, which is a historic schoolhouse in Franconia that shares the stories of freed men and women during the post-Civil War era.

Councilor John Chapman highlighted King’s valuable wisdom, which she honed during the decades she spent living and working in Alexandria. He also praised her many contributions to the city, particularly the work she did for the Black community.

“Her advocacy of African American businesses [and] entrepreneurship was matched by very few,” Chapman wrote on Facebook. “Our elders are leaving us, and we are not ready. Rest well.”

King served as chair of the city’s Commission on Employment, which works to improve employment services by linking city employment and training programs with similar programs in the school system and the chamber of commerce.

King also served on the Alexandria Historical Resources Commission, where she contributed to preserving the city’s historical legacy, and the Board of Agenda: Alexandria, where she helped produce monthly programs that examine controversial topics in the city.

King was a member of the Financial Counseling Team ministry at McLean Bible Church for more than 20 years, with the church describing her as “a woman of great character, courage, humility and discernment.”

She was named an Alexandria Living Legend in 2018 for her work with FMK Financial Literacy Center and extensive service to the city.

“Ms. King has quietly helped others to be better individuals and better members of society,” the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce said about King in 2018.

Then, in 2021, King took her commitment to the city up a notch by running for City Council as an independent, with the aims of increasing housing affordability and decreasing density at the forefront of her campaign.

“I am here to serve all of Alexandria. It’s not a fragmented city to me, I feel that the West End is just as important as the waterfront,” King told the Times earlier this year when asked about her campaign.

She also stated that her decision to run as an independent was highly intentional, designed to draw bipartisan support across the political aisle.

“I want to get the perspective on both sides and both sides have valid viewpoints which I admire, but give me an opportunity to digest those and let me make the decision myself,” King told the Times.

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg recalled meetings held by the Alexandria Regional Council of the United Way, of which King was chair. During her tenure as mayor, Silberberg would attend the group’s annual breakfasts and budget meetings and distinctly recalled King’s approach as a leader.

“She led with a natural flair,” Silberberg said. “She was at ease, she made people comfortable; she was leading the meeting.”

Beyond just King’s leadership style, Silberberg said she’ll remember her most for her exuberance and dedication to Alexandria.

“She was so much fun. She was just real fun,” Silberberg said. “But in addition to being fun, she was incredibly knowledgeable about our city, about helping the most vulnerable. Her commitment to it was contagious and inspiring. She was devoted to our city’s wellbeing.”

King is survived by her three sisters, brother, son and two daughters.