Julia Roberts celebrated her 55th birthday last Friday, Oct. 28, and the occasion was marked by the spread of a little-known story: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King paid the hospital bill when the future Oscar winner was born in Smyrna, Georgia in 1967.
The incredibly true story has been floating around for a while now, and Roberts actually discussed it in detail during a History Channel event with Gayle King in September. It was that clip that went viral on Roberts’ birthday after a fan had brought some attention to the tale earlier in the week.
In the clip, King asked with a grin, “The day you were born, who paid for the hospital?” Roberts, after praising King’s research, explained the connection: “My parents had a theater school in Atlanta called the Actors and Writers Workshop. 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!’”
Roberts continued, “They all became friends, and they just helped us out of a jam.”
As the clip made its rounds, Bernice King — Martin and Coretta’s youngest child — tweeted, “Grateful that #JuliaRoberts shared this story with @GayleKing and that so many people have been awed by it. I know the story well, but it is moving for me to be reminded of my parents’ generosity and influence.”
As The Washington Post noted, Roberts’ connection to the Kings has been discussed a few times in the past. Most notably, a 2001 CNN special featured Yolanda King — Martin and Coretta’s eldest child — reminiscing on her time at the Roberts’ theater school, which was the only integrated theater school in Atlanta at the time.
“Mr. Roberts was so imposing. I loved him, but I was also a little intimidated by him too,” said Yolanda, who later worked as an actress and producer before her death in 2007. “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.”
Yolanda added, “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.”