When Julia Roberts was born, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King paid the bill

A smiling woman wearing a bright pink gown
Julia Roberts poses at the “Ticket to Paradise” premiere at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

Today in random celebrity facts, we learn who paid the hospital bill for Julia Roberts’ parents when she was born in 1967.

That would be the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

Wait, what?

The “Ticket to Paradise” star revealed that factoid in a September interview, but it went viral again over the weekend when Zara Rahim, a former strategic advisor for Barack Obama, re-upped it on Twitter to mark Roberts’ 55th birthday on Oct. 28.

“Today is Julia Roberts birthday! 55 years ago MLK and Coretta Scott King paid for her parents hospital bill after she was born,” Rahim tweeted, sharing a clip of the interview with journalist Gayle King. “Can’t stop thinking about this since I read it.”

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“The King family paid for my hospital bill,” Roberts said in footage of the A+E Networks and History Channel’s HISTORYTalks chat with the “CBS This Morning” host.

The “Pretty Woman” and “Erin Brockovich” star was born in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, Ga., to actor-playwrights Walter and Betty Roberts, who were friends with the civil rights leaders.

“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. And my mom was like, ‘Sure, come on over.’ And so they all became friends and they helped us out of a jam,” the Oscar winner said.

“Every year,” Julia Roberts says, shaking her head. “Every year it’s: ‘And now she’s back.’”

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“Yeah, because in the ’60s, you didn’t have little Black children interacting with little white kids in acting school,” Gayle King observed, noting that she has no relation to the King family. “And Julia’s parents were welcoming, and I think that’s extraordinary, and it sort of lays the groundwork for who you are.”

The piece of trivia was hotly discussed on Twitter, with many having a hard time reconciling the circumstances around it.

“For me, it’s surreal to think that Dr. King was alive when Julia was born. I *know* that it wasn’t that long ago, logically, of course, but learning about him as a kid made it seem like ‘ancient’ history. & Julia is anything but,” said one reply to Rahim’s tweet.


“Very cringe that they took money from a Black family who didn’t even have jobs and relied on donations because they were doing movement work. I hope the family supported the civil rights movement in some way,” wrote another user.

Yolanda King, an actress, producer and motivational speaker who was the eldest child of the Rev.

May 17, 2007

Meanwhile, Bernice King, the youngest child of MLK and Coretta Scott King, also confirmed Roberts’ revelation.

“Grateful that #JuliaRoberts shared this story with @GayleKing and that so many people have been awed by it,” she tweeted Sunday night. “I know the story well, but it is moving for me to be reminded of my parents’ generosity and influence. #CorettaScottKing #MLK”

Roberts and Yolanda King, the eldest of MLK’s children, became friends after Yolanda enrolled in the acting school at age 8. At 15, her 1971 starring role in the workshop’s production of “The Owl and the Pussycat” caused a stir because she shared a kiss with a white actor — a move that reportedly prompted “a tangential member” of the KKK to blow up a Buick outside the theater.

Yolanda King continued to pursue acting, as well as producing and motivational speaking. She turned to the performing arts to carry on her parents’ civil rights legacy before she died in 2007 at 51 from complications related to a chronic heart condition.