Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Calvin Woodard
  • 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron
When I was born in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King's life was almost over. He set the stage for how Americans live and interact today. 

Before Dr. King and the civil rights movement, blacks were relegated to second-class citizen status. I recall my mother and father picking cotton to make ends meet, because they couldn't get any other employment. The only other job available to blacks during the 1960s in Mississippi was farming. 

Dr. King sacrificed his life to change the mind-set of white Americans concerning blacks. This was no small task. His non-violent strategy was a hard sell to blacks during the early '60s. Blacks were being hung and churches being burned all over the South. 

His non-violent tactics were put to their most severe test in Birmingham, Ala., during a mass protest for fair hiring practices and the desegregation of department stores. Police brutality against the marchers was televised, showing the plight of blacks to the nation at large, with enormous impact causing riots throughout America. 

Dr. King was arrested, but his spirit could not be silenced: he wrote "Letter from Birmingham Jail" to silence his critics. 

Dr. King was murdered April 4, 1968, on the balcony of the black-owned Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy were with him when he was shot in the neck by a rifle bullet. Dr. King was in Memphis supporting a sanitation worker's strike. His death caused a wave of violence in major cities across the country. 

I remember my mother crying. She was asking, "How could someone kill a person so passionate for people?" Dr. King was the prime mover of the Montgomery bus boycott, keynote speaker at the march on Washington, D.C., the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and his policy of non-violent protest was the dominating force behind the Supreme Court embracing the civil rights movement begun in 1964. 

I thank God for Dr. King's strife and wonder where this nation would be today without his sacrifice.