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My Memory of Dr. King by Gary A. Johnson


On this King Holiday, a federal government day of remembrance honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I remember the power and “reach” of this man.  I grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Washington, DC.  I remember the evening that Dr. King was assassinated.  It was April 4, 1968.  It was also my father’s birthday.

I remember watching ABC TV News Anchor Harry Reasoner interrupt the prime time viewing of the TV show “Bewitched,” announcing that Dr. King was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN.

I remember the telephone ringing as the news started to spread that Dr. King was killed.

I remember watching my mother on the telephone call after call talking to friends and family, and occasionally wiping away tears.

I remember going outside and seeing people gather in the streets on the block in our neighborhood.

I remember my mother, who was a groundbreaking DC police officer, appear to be torn emotionally between being a police officer who was placed on-call and a mother trying to explain the growing unrest and rioting in the streets to her young children.

I remember watching my neighbor’s mom crying uncontrollably.

I remember standing in our front yard which sat on a hill and smelling smoke and watching military vehicles drive the streets as a result of neighborhood stores and buildings burned for 4 days due to the rioting and unrest.

I remember, neighbors painting “I’m Black,” on their cars, houses and storefronts, to protect their property from being vandalized.

I remember, roving community leaders like DC radio host Harold Bell and some professional athletes walking the streets trying to keep the city and its residents calm.

I remember black police officers like Tilmon O’Brien and Burtell Jefferson, all family friends, walking the streets trying to calm citizens.

I remember days later, Dr. King’s funeral service being broadcast in commercial movie theaters via closed circuit television.

I remember Dr. King’s “lieutenants” like Rev. Ralph Abernathy, taking the lead in organizing the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic justice and the images of “Shantytown” on the National Mall in downtown Washington, DC.

I remember my visit to the Lorraine Hotel, now the National Civil Right Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.  Room 306 was restored to the way it was up to the moment Dr. King was assassinated with his meal displayed on the tray and the vehicles parked outside the room.

On this day of remembrance 50 years after Dr. King’s death, it is clear to me that one person can make a difference, even in death.  Dr. Martin Luther King, was a man with flaws just like the rest of us.  He was also a man with a vision and the ability to lead and inspire others to action.  Dr. King made life better for all of us.  It is up to us and our children and their children to do better. 

Top 20 Most Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

  1. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
  2. That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do what is right.
  3. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  4. We bust build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
  5. If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t walk run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.
  6. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  7. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  8. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  9. We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
  10. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  11. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
  12. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.
  13. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
  14. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
  15. Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
  16. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
  17. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  18. We must use time creatively.
  19. Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.
  20. We must substitute courage for caution.

Photo Credit: Resurrection City courtesy Henry ZbyszynskiFlickr: Resurrection City Washington D.C. 1968

MLK and LBJ courtesy Yoichi Okamoto – Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder of Gary A. Johnson Company & Associates, LLC, a management training and consulting company. The company manages a variety of Internet and digital media enterprises including Black Men In, one of the most popular web sites on the Internet, Black Men In Dating and the Black Men In Syndicated Blog. In addition, the company manages Black Boating and, a site that highlights the adventures of boating enthusiasts.

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