The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Today is the holiday celebrating his legacy and his life. He was slain on April 4, 1968. He is best known as a civil rights leader and peace advocate. In the style of Gandhi, he is also noted for his belief in non-violent protest, even when confronted with physical force. U.S. Federal law mandates the celebration of most public holidays on the Monday closest to the original date.
Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace by King Gustav of Sweden in 1964. In 1977, he was posthumously awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by the (then) President, Jimmy Carter.
During his lifetime, Dr. King was renown for his advancing the cause of equal rights, his commitment to non-violence and pacifism (especially his opposition to the Vietnam War) and his championing voting rights and civil rights for people everywhere but particularly in the United States of America. He was a vocal critic of the (then) policy in South Africa of complete racial separation.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was the undisputed leader of the grass-roots movement to secure racial equality for all oppressed peoples living in the USA. He was one of the founders and guiding forces of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He served for many years pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Although was assassinated before the modern gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) equality movement began (he was shot on April 4, 1968; the Stonewall Riots happened in June, 1969), he is recognized as a definitive inspiration by the GLBT community worldwide. After his death, his widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, publicly stated many times that she had no doubt in her mind of his support of the GLBT community in their struggle for equality.
In the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. King delivered his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech, he never wavered in his support of Mr. Bayard Ruskin, one of the principal organizers of the event. Many of the other civil rights leaders involved and some of King’s own advisors urged him to fire Ruskin and denounce him after it was discovered that he (Ruskin) was homosexual. The Reverend Dr. King refused to do so and even had Ruskin appear publicly onstage with him before the more than 200,000 people congregated on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Personally, I don’t remember much of Dr. King due to my young age at the time. I do, however, recall both of my parents going to see him speak and their enthusiasm after he gave his remarks. My father told my brothers and I that he was a great and decent man when he explained to us all what had happened in April, 1968.