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Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister, activist and a African-American civil rights movement leader. He is best known for his role in advancing civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1955, he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and in 1957, he helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He organized several nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. In October 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality through nonviolence.

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis by James Earl Ray. His death caused more than 100 riots to break out across the United States. Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison but later recanted his confession, and many still believe the gunman wasn’t working alone.

I was exposed to Dr King at a very young age. I went to Seward Elementary School in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a permanent plaque hung on the wall outside the library entrance that had an excerpt from King’s “I Have A Dream Speech” (which you can watch above). So any time we went to check out a book, or walk by it to assembly, it was there. I guess I’ve always been one of those ‘thirst for knowledge’ type of people, so I began to ask my teachers about Dr. King in first or second grade. Dr. King is one of my earliest memories from school. It’s funny the things you remember from 40+ years ago.

Here are some little known facts about Dr. King:

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a vegetarian.
–He was a fan of the original Star Trek television series.
–King and his dad were both born with the first name Michael, but later both changed their names to Martin.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was honored as Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1964 — one year after delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C..
–King was jailed 29 times.  He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.
–After earning a doctorate from Boston University in systematic theology in 1955, King passed up opportunities to teach. Instead he chose to continue leading a congregation at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
–In 1957, King was stabbed in the chest with a 7-inch letter opener at a book signing in Harlem, New York.
–King skipped grades nine and 12 and enrolled into Morehouse College at age 15. He was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.
–King’s mother was also shot and killed. On June 30, 1974 69-year-old Alberta Williams King was shot by Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer.
–In 1971, King won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for “Why I opposed the war in Vietnam.”
–George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday.

Spend a few minutes today thinking about the man and the legacy he left behind and think what more might he have done if not for that assassin’s bullet. He may have celebrated his 85th birthday just last week.

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