I first met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. following a Sunday service at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. That was in the late summer of 1959.
As a student at Texas A&M, I had written papers on Dr. King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. His book, Stride Toward Freedom, described the epic battle against the prevailing culture and laws of segregation in Alabama and across the South. Rosa Parks sat down on that city bus to ignite America’s moral and political crisis that continues even today.
Little did I know that in less than a decade I would be working for Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. While many of my Chicago-based colleagues, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ben Branch, and Rev. Gary Massoni, were in Memphis with Dr. King and many of the SCLC team, I remained in Chicago on April 4 when he was assassinated.
In these 50 years, Americans may know little of Dr. King. The secular cultural and political leadership and the media seem to blur that Dr. King was first and foremost a Christian minister. He was a pastor at Auburn Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, with his father, affectionately known as Daddy King. His organization was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was populated on its board, many of its staff and volunteer followers, south and north, by Christian people seeking justice in America for all its citizens. A favorite Scripture of the civil rights movement was:
“Let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream,”
Amos 5:24 (NKJV).