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Peacemonger Profiles: Martin Luther King Jr.  

Posted by Jerry Jaspar on 1/14/2014 to Peace Heroes

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA on January 15, 1929. Faith was always an important part of daily life, as both his father and his grandfather were prominent Baptist ministers. It was his father who firstly changed his name from Michael to Martin Luther King Sr. - after Matin Luther who formed the Protestant Church, rejecting a corrupt Catholic Church in the 1500's. Michael King Jr. later followed his father's lead in adopting the name Marin Luther. During his formative years, Martin Luther King Jr. nearly gave up religion entirely. His faith was revived in his junior year at high school and he went on to his doctorate at Boston University after being accepted to Seminary at Yale, and Edinburgh, Scotland. 

During the work on this doctorate, Martin Luther King Jr. met Coretta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician, at the New England Conservatory school in Boston. They were married in June 1953 and had four children. 

Having excelled during his education to become valedictorian and class president, Martin Luther King Jr. had established himself as an exceptional orator early on in life. This quality, matched with incisive and intuitively just views on accepted norms of segregation and class warfare propelled him to a position which helped begin a shift in America's social consciousness which still unfolds to this day. In 1954, while still working on his dissertation, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama. He completed his Ph.D. and was award his degree in 1955. King was only 25 years old. 

When Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery in 1955 for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, the incident lit a fire under the burgeoning civil rights movement. His peaceful process of boycotting city buses for 381 days eventually led to a supreme court decision which declared segregated buses unconstitutional. This decision proved that non-violent action in the face of popular opposition could yield true change for the cause of social justice. 

 King was now the national face of the civil rights cause. He was jailed over 20 times, and was once stabbed in the chest. His house was bombed. He and his family underwent constant personal attacks both physically and psychologically. For a man of peaceful intentions, he unfortunately lived under the threat of violence to both himself and his loved ones. Their courage inspired thousands to endure, even to the point of giving ones' life for the cause of freedom. From 1957 to 1968 he traveled over 6 million miles, gave 2500 speeches, wrote five books and dozens of articles. His speeches were legendary. In 1963, his "I have a dream" speech became a defining moment in American history. In 1964, for his tireless and fearless efforts to propel the cause of socially just laws defining equality between races of men, King became the youngest person ever to have won the Nobel Peace Prize. 

King had more confidence and faith in Democracy, the constitution, and the concepts of a fairness and opportunity in America than did his detractors. Bigotry in the south could not stand long, having Martin Luther King Jr. as the leader of the heated civil rights movement. However, in 1968 while fighting for Memphis sanitation workers' rights, he delivered his last speech. Titled "I've been to the mountain top," King's prophetic words echoed those of Moses: "I may not get there with you, but I have SEEN the promised land..." In April of 1968, while speaking from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, King was shot and killed. 

In 1983, Ronald Reagan declared every third Monday each January as a national holiday. In following years, the example left by the life of this man inspired an inclusion to encourage us to perform a public community service, on this holiday and every day. This particular hero for Peace stands out from the rest. Let us celebrate this day with each other remembering and honoring the Dream. Engage in social or environmental actions for Peace in your community. Here we provide a link so you may find a local "Day of Service."

What makes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a Peacemonger? He left a seismic impact on history with regard to race relations and segregation in America and around the world. He was virulently opposed to wars of aggression. He practiced non-violent protest in the face of grave danger and adversity. He was among the greatest Peacemongers in human history.

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