December 19, 2012
On a quiet Sunday evening in March 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., M.L. to his folks, sat on their patio after dinner, and broached a disturbing subject with them.
Martin Luther King Sr. recalled the evening in his 1980 autobiography, “Daddy King: an Autobiography:”
“‘There’s a chance, Mama, that someone is going to try to kill me, and it could happen without any warning at all,’ M.L. said this quickly, then walked to the far of the patio. We sat silently, knowing for this moment at there couldn’t be any words.”
Less than two weeks later, on the evening of April 4, King and his wife drove to his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta; King wrote that they were in a good mood, having heard from M.L. and A.D. (their youngest child, Alfred Daniel Williams) several times that day on the phone. They walked into the church and heard on the radio their oldest son had been killed in Memphis; shot by James Earl Ray.
Martin Luther King Sr., who was born on Dec. 19, 1899, in Stockbridge, Ga., became a preacher because he was inspired by the teachings and words of ministers who were speaking out for racial equality, including his future father-in-law, Alfred Daniel Williams.
When King began seeing Rev. Williams’ daughter, Alberta, the minister of Ebenezer Baptist Church pushed him to go back to school and study to become a preacher. King graduated from Morehouse School of Religion, and married Alberta Williams, after courting her for eight years, in 1926. In 1931, King took over for his recently deceased father-in-law as the leader of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Though in the midst of the Great Depression, King stabilized the financial health of the church, and was pastor there for more than 40 years. He became a leader in the civil rights movement, and lead the first voting rights march in Atlanta in 1936. He became head of the NAACP chapter in Atlanta, and is credited with leadership in the efforts to end Georgia’s Jim Crow laws and to get equal pay and treatment for teachers.
He was a life-long registered Republican, endorsing Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election, but when Robert Kennedy intervened to get his son out of jail after an Atlanta civil rights sit-in he reconsidered his position and supported Kennedy and the Democrats, despite his reservations of having a Catholic as president. He went on to give the invocation at the 1976 and 1980 Democratic National Conventions for his friend Jimmy Carter. His leadership inspired his son, both to become a minister and to stand up for the rights of black people, who wrote about a time when he was riding with his father when they were stopped by a policeman. When the policeman addressed King Sr. as “boy,” he pointed to his son and said, "This is a boy, I'm a man; until you call me one, I will not listen to you."
A little over a year after M.L. was murdered, A.D. drowned, he was 38, and June 30, 1974, as she was sitting at the organ during a Ebenezer Church service, Alberta was shot and killed by Marcus Chenault.
Recalling the depths of despair he’d witnessed after losing two of his three children and his wife, King wrote: “When the evil heart of segregation could beat no more, it was because it had been stopped by people who did not counsel violence, who did not brutalize and bomb, who never sought to take away any part of anyone else’s identity as a human being. These things triumphed over the exaggerated power of hatred. And so which path would any man who knew this choose to travel? Hatred did not win. I prefer to share triumph.”
Martin Luther King Sr. died on Nov. 11, 1984, a few weeks before his 84th birthday. Frank Daniels III: HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org, or 615-881-7039.