Twenty years after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a sniper, civil rights activists and supporters gathered around the country Monday to remind America that the slain leader's dream has yet to be fulfilled.
In Memphis, where James Earl Ray shot King at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, several hundred people attended a memorial service at the church where King delivered his "Mountaintop" speech the night before he died."I was one of those people blessed enough to have been here April 3, 1968," NAACP President Benjamin Hooks told the crowd Sunday night.
"I remember it as if it were yesterday. Listening to the power and pathos of Martin Luther King," he said. "I remember Dr. King saying, `I may not make it with you . . . to the promised land."'
"No, Dr. King we haven't made it yet," Hooks said, "but your unfulfilled dream still haunts us. God help us to realize our dream."
Hooks described King, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the leader who symbolized the civil rights movement, as "not simply God's gift to black America, but to the nation."
King's son, who was 10 at the time of the assassination, said if his father were alive today "he would tell us we must not get caught up in the paralysis of analysis."
"It seems to me that because we got paralyzed, poverty has increased and racism is still part of society," Martin Luther King III said, noting that 36 million Americans live in poverty. "It seems to me that we have to look to the future, to the '90sto find the solution to this massive problem."
A cadre of King's closest followers were to lead a march in Atlanta this evening from the slain civil rights leader's gravesite to the governor's mansion, and memorial services and other observances were scheduled around the country.
The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under King and his closest confidant, heads the list of civil rights luminaries at the Atlanta march. Abernathy will be joined by Atlanta City Councilman Hosea Williams, a field general in the King forces, Earl Shinhoster, regional director of the NAACP, and NAACP Georgia director Edward Brown Jr.
King was in Memphis to support striking garbage collectors 20 years ago when he was felled by a single gunshot while standing on a second-floor balcony at the Lorraine Motel.