BY MOLLIE S. WATERS
The Greenville Standard
Few people are as iconic or memorable as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King emerged as the leader of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
As a leader, King encouraged peaceful protests and demonstrations that were often met with violence.
With his words, King was able to inspire millions, and his “I Have a Dream Speech” is considered by many as the greatest speech of the Twentieth Century.
King was born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta.
His name at birth was actually Michael King, but King’s father changed his and his son’s names to Martin in 1934. The elder King may have done this in a nod to the famous Martin Luther, a German priest who ushered in the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the Middle Ages.
At the age of 18, while a student at Morehouse College, King made the decision to go into ministry. Though he could not have known it at the time, it was a decision that would have an impact on the entire nation.
King received his doctorate degree from Boston University in 1955.
Prior to receiving his doctorate, King had already started his job as the minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery in 1954.
He had also married Coretta Scott the year before. They would have four children together.
It was while King was the minister at Dexter Avenue that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus.
That event on Dec. 1, 1955, led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is often cited as the start of the Civil Rights Movement.
King quickly took on a leadership role in the activities of the Civil Rights Movement, and he eventually emerged as its figurehead.
King was a part of many of the Civil Rights Movement’s most significant events, including the Selma to Montgomery March and the March on Washington, during which he delivered his “I Have a Dream” Speech.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. He was only 39 years old at the time of his death.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law that the third Monday of every January would be a holiday in Dr. King’s honor. That law took effect in January 1986.
This year, the holiday in honor of Dr. King will be Jan. 21.