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Monday, April 04, 2011

43 years ago

Graduation from high school would take place in about two months. 

I was 18-years-old, trying to get my head around leaving home for college.  Personally, it was a time of nervous transition, but I thought I was ready.

Late in the day, 43 years ago today, my dear friend and almost brother, Eddie Wilson and I were putting up campaign signs in yards and on street corners promoting a candidate for the local school board election who my father supported. 

As was typical, the radio blared from my car, the 1957 Buick I had inherited when the family purchased a new vehicle. 

The news flash crackled out of the AM broadcast informing us that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been murdered in Memphis, Tennessee where he had traveled to support a labor action by Memphis sanitation workers who were on strike.  I would later hear reports that referenced the now almost eerie speech the famous preacher had delivered the night before in which he spoke of having "been to the mountain" and how he did not fear death or any man. 

Growing up in an extremely segregated Dallas, Texas, I possessed inadequate social background or understanding to interpret the significance of what I was hearing on the radio.  I remember sitting in the car staring at the dial in disbelief.  Another leader of people gunned down. 

Since that awful afternoon 43 years ago, I've come to understand just how significant was the life, work and word of Dr. King and just how horrific the loss of his life and leadership was for the nation. 

So, today, I'm back in the front seat of my car, hearing terrible news and trying to discern what it might mean.  Forty-three years later I know the work continues.  I know Dr. King's life mattered.  I know that we continue his work.  And, I know the same tears that came to my eyes so long ago. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can think on no individual in the last 100 years whose impact on America has been greater than Dr. King's. I was in the 4th grade living in Memphis when the shots were fired. That day is just burned in my memory. At the time, I was taught to literally hate him. I heard sermons designed to prove he was a communist. In the white community he represented all that whites feared. The sad thing is that 43 years later the sanitation workers in Memphis, the group that was the catalyst for his coming to Memphis in the first place, are still not paid what they deserve.

If someone is interested in a fantastic book on the assassination of Dr. King and hunt for James Earl Ray I highly recommend Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides. Dr. King was a human like everyone else, and he had his personal demons, but that in no way takes away from what he led and accomplished. Larry, thanks for the post.

Richard Corum

Larry James said...

Thank you, Richard.

Adam Gonnerman said...

I have these two quotes posted in the sidebar of the blog page on one of my sites:

"When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." - Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26

Jerry said...

Larry, thanks for a well written, timely reminder of the importance of this date and the legacy of Dr. King.

belinda said...

I put this Dr. King quote on my e-mails:

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

I was too young to know much about what was going on at the time. I remember asking my mother what the sign at the laundromat meant that said "whites only." It was beyond my comprehension then to realize some people were not able to do certain things because their skin was a different color. How sad and pathetic.