Julia Roberts has a very poignant tie to late Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., as he covered the hospital bill for her 1967 birth.
“The King family paid for my hospital bills. My parents couldn’t pay for the hospital bill,” Julia told Gayle King in an interview for A&E’s HISTORYTalks, which aired in September but resurfaced on October 28 when the Oscar-winning actress turned 55.
The Ticket to Paradise star went on to describe how her parents, Betty Lou Bredemus and Walter Grady Roberts, had developed a close relationship with the King family by welcoming the couple’s children into their Decatur, Georgia, children’s acting school at a time when black children faced discrimination in attending classes with white students.
“My parents had a theater school in Atlanta called the Actors and Writers Workshop. 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,” Julia explained. “And my mom was like, ‘Sure. Come on over.’ And so they just all became friends, and they helped us out of a jam.”
Gayle replied, “In the ’60s, you didn’t have little black children interacting with white kids in acting school. And your parents were like, ‘Come on in. I think that’s extraordinary. And it sort of lays the groundwork for who you are,” to which Julia replied, “Absolutely.”
Julia was the third child born to Walter and Betty. Her brother, actor Eric Roberts, was born in 1956, while sister Lisa Roberts Gillan came along in 1965. MLK was shot and killed by assassin James Earl Ray outside the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, less than six months after Julia’s birth.
The eldest of Martin and Coretta’s four children, daughter Yolanda King, went on to pursue a professional acting career after attending Julia’s parents’ school. She was featured in films such as Ghosts of Mississippi and TV shows including JAG and Strong Medicine. She also played Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks in the 1978 TV miniseries, King. Yolanda died on May 15, 2007, at the age of 51 in Santa Monica, California, due to cardiopulmonary issues.