By Hollis Wormsby, Jr.
On April 4, 1968, black America was stunned by the news that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee while leading a protest for higher wages for sanitation workers. On this the 51st anniversary of his assassination it is worthy that we look back on Dr. King’s life and what he taught us.
Dr. King was a major inspiration to me. The reason that I write the way that I do, the reason that I talk the way I do was inspired by him. The reason I have read so many books and spent so much time trying to understand history and use it as a context to make a better way is because of the respect I have for him. So, on this, the anniversary let us be reminded of some of the lessons he taught.
The first thing that I remember about Dr. King is that he always preached a universal message of love. In spite of all the hate that he experienced; in spite of having his life constantly threatened; in spite of living with the fear that someone would harm his family; he never uttered a public word of hate, but insisted that good would overcome evil; love would overcome hate.
Dr. King was inspirational. When he spoke, he used the same words as others, but coming from him, words had a majesty and a power that was unimaginable. And Dr. King knew how to build to a moment in a speech. When he delivered his infamous, “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. he began with almost a whisper but as he danced his way through the moment he used every ounce of eloquence to master the moment to deliver one of the greatest speeches in history.
Dr. King was unselfish. With his education and his eloquence, he could have lived a comfortable life. He could have chosen to pastor at some exclusive church and paid himself well. He could have driven a Cadillac and always worn the most expensive suits, and no one would have argued, but he didn’t. Dr. King never sought wealth, never indulged in the symbols of opulence. Dr. King was the epitome of the old Bible verse that said it would be easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to walk through the gates of heaven.
Dr. King will never truly die as long as there are those who remember his legacy, and who try to use the lessons we learned from him to move our community forward. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
(Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 29 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)