Dr. Michael King was a talented athlete who swam and played basketball and football in high school before playing quarterback for Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. After college and medical school, King became a very successful orthopedic surgeon. Throughout his life, his family says that King suffered from depression which worsened because of the physical toll that football had on his body and his brain. In 2011, King took his life at the age of 65. King’s family donated his brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank for research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). King shares his story because they want to raise awareness for CTE research.
For many years, he spent his Friday nights on the sidelines of local high school football fields where he cared for the athletes, and our home was a virtual walk-in clinic where young athletes and their parents, many of whom could not afford formal medical treatment, were given the care they needed. Our Dad was an “old school” doctor, the kind who visits his patients at their homes and spends extra time with them in the office, explaining the root cause of their injuries and making them feel safe in his skilled and gentle hands.
Written by the four children of Michael King – Katie, Mike, Marylynn, and Alex
Dr. Michael King, father, husband and surgeon, took his own life at his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at the age of 65. Our Dad was a beloved orthopedic surgeon and a selfless teacher. For many years, he spent his Friday nights on the sidelines of local high school football fields where he cared for the athletes, and our home was a virtual walk-in clinic where young athletes and their parents, many of whom could not afford formal medical treatment, were given the care they needed. Our Dad was an “old school” doctor, the kind who visits his patients at their homes and spends extra time with them in the office, explaining the root cause of their injuries and making them feel safe in his skilled and gentle hands.
Our Dad had been a great athlete in his youth. He excelled in basketball, swimming and football, and was the star quarterback for his high school team, Page High School in Greensboro, NC. He then went on to be the quarterback and captain of the football team at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and graduated with a degree in Political Science in 1969. By the time he was in his late-20s and in medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill, his body was already starting to break down. Over the next several decades, due to past sports injuries and worsening osteoarthritis, he became the real life bionic man—with double shoulder and knee replacements, a hip replacement and a fused ankle.
Our Dad loved his family. He is survived by his wife Donna, his children Katie, Mike, Marylynn and Alex, step-daughter Meagan Ferrell, his former wife and dear friend Susan Gordon King, and one brother and three sisters. Our Dad was most at peace tending to his garden where he taught many life lessons and spent countless hours with Donna. He loved talking with his children, of whom he was extremely proud, and sharing in their achievements. He was an accomplished artist and craftsman, talents which he often used to create personalized gifts for family and friends. He was also an avid reader and aficionado of history and politics. Our Dad believed strongly in the importance of faith, family, education and hard work, all of which he instilled in his children.
Our Dad suffered from depression for most of our lives. It was just part of who he was and we loved him anyway. At times it was unbelievably frustrating, as his depression was expressed through anger, impatience and his demand for perfection from all those around him. Other times his depression made him distant and weepy. We each sought to help him in our own ways, with letters, phone calls and visits home to remind him how much he was loved. By early 2011 our Dad’s osteoarthritis became so severe that he could no longer perform surgeries. His fingers were extremely swollen and stiff and he needed help doing the most basic things around the house. He struggled mightily with the thought that things were only going to get worse, and in his increasingly debilitated state, he felt as though he had nothing more to give.
We know that our Dad suffered many concussions during his years as a quarterback and he spoke often of the effect those head injuries may have had on his mental and emotional state. When he died we knew we wanted to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. We are so thankful for the dedication of Dr. McKee, Dr. Stern, Chris Nowinski and all of the staff at the Concussion Legacy Foundation for their work on CTE. Our Dad would be honored to be part of such a renowned program. We miss him dearly but find peace knowing he is no longer suffering and comfort that his pain may help others.
Alex, the youngest of the four King children, had a very successful college career as a punter both while an undergraduate at Duke University and as a graduate student at the University of Texas. At UT, Alex wore our Dad’s old number, Number 15.
Click here to read an article about Michael published in the Winston Salem Journal.