The Man and the Legend


“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”    Martin Luther King 

Strong words spoken by a strong man.  Strong words that are just as true today as they were when he spoke them.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a trail blazer in the world of Civil Rights who strongly believed that until all people were “free” none of us would be.  He fought not only for African American rights but for a true understanding between all races and religions.  

“All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

His public visibility grew as his speeches began to get increased coverage by the news media and the numbers at his rallies steadily expanded from thousands to tens of thousands.  And they weren’t all African Americans either.  Whites heard and understood his message and joined the rallies and marches too,  by the thousands.   March 1963 Washington, D.C.; December 1964, Selma, Alabama; March 25th 1965 Montgomery, Alabama to name a few.   But unfortunately notoriety usually comes with a very dark side.

Who can forget those ugly images of high pressure water hoses being turned on the demonstrators; or the armies of police that waded into the crowds swinging night sticks and rubber batons.  But Martin Luther King Jr. refused to give up and continued to speak of peace and passive resistance not heeding the cries for violence.  But on April 4th, 1968 the violence caught up to the man and at 6:01 pm a single bullet did what all the hateful voices could not.  At 7:05 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Most of us knew  Martin Luther King Jr. the legend but did we really know “who” Martin Luther King Jr. the man was?

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.  King’s father, Reverend Martin Luther King, was born “Michael King”, and Martin Luther King, Jr., was originally named “Michael King, Jr.,” until the family traveled to Europe in 1934 and visited Germany where his father soon changed both of their names to Martin Luther in honor of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther.

 King Jr. attended Booker T. Washington High School where he skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grade before entered Morehouse College at age fifteen.  In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951.

In 1954 he became Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama and in 1960 until his death he was co-pastor, with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta.

On June 18, 1953, King married Coretta Scott, in her hometown of  Heiberger, Alabama.  They had four children; Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice King.  Soon after he began his doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.”

In 1964, at age 35 Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest man to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.   He immediately turned the prize money over to the Civil Rights Movement.

After his death stories began to appear attempting to tarnish the image of the legend.  Reports often contained rumors of his womanizing, illicit sexual encounters, use of foul language and lavish parties.  Even though some of these allegations were later to be proven true do they really diminish the image of the legend and the man?  What people must realize, when all is said and done, most legends are just men or woman at the end of the day.  They are just as susceptible to the same human frailties and vices all of us are.  Occasionally we all slip off that white horse they are no different.  We need to remember the great things Martin Luther King Jr. did and the beliefs he died for and let history make its own judgment on the man.

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a law that made Martin Luther King day an official holiday.  At first numerous states refused to observe the holiday, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays.  Then finally in 2000, it was officially observed in all 50 states.


“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of Gods children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” 

 Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963
Washington, DC

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2 Responses to "The Man and the Legend"

  1. A great article about Dr. King. I always felt Dr King was truly color blind and he saw us all as an American family. He would not support this giant welfare state the Democratic party has created to keep black & white Americans dependent on the government. Dr King spent his life ending the jim crow segregation laws put into place by President Wilson who was a Democrat racist and the democratic party is the party of slavery and jim crow. Today they claim to be the liberals that ended Jim Crow and usurped the civil rights movement from the republicans. Dr King himself was a republican. Today the democrats have created generations on welfare in the black community, which is in itself a form of slavery to the government. The Democrats just can’t let got of their past. Dr King would lead a new movement of freedom from this welfare state if he were alive today.

  2. Jack it is difficult to postulate exactly what Dr. King would be doing if he were alive today. Certainly the country would be different than it is now. You can’t remove a man as influential as Dr. King without it having some kind of effect on future history. Whether that effect would have been good or bad is pure speculation and best left to the Science Fiction writers. Ira


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