U.S. gives tribute to memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

ATLANTA Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:59pm EST

1 of 9. Christine King Farris, (L-R), sister slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Bernice King, daughter of King and the Rev. Samuel Rodriquez sing 'We Shall Overcome' at Ebenezer Baptist Church during the 45th Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service in Atlanta, Georgia, January 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY RELIGION)

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - America's concern over gun violence became the focus of speeches in Atlanta on Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who led a non-violent struggle for civil rights before he was gunned down at age 39.

Crowds gathered at commemorative services across the country on the national holiday in King's honor, the same day as President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremonies and little more than a month after the Connecticut mass shooting that touched off a national outcry over gun control.

In a ceremony in King's hometown of Atlanta, his daughter Bernice King spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was once a pastor. She recalled her father's reaction after their family home in Montgomery, Alabama, was bombed in 1956 during a boycott of the local bus system.

Some black residents of the city were "armed that day, ready to protect their homes," but King urged them to put away their guns, Bernice King said.

"This apostle of nonviolence perhaps introduced one of the greatest experiences of gun control that we've ever heard of in the history of our nation," said Bernice King, who is chief executive of the King Center in Atlanta.

An assassin's bullet ended King's life on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, human rights activist Elisabeth Omilami reminded the crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

"Dr. King was a victim of gun violence," said Omilami, daughter of Hosea Williams, one of King's lieutenants in the civil rights movement.

The church crowd gathered before a giant screen to witness the inauguration ceremony in Washington and hear Obama's speech which touched on King's "I Have a Dream" speech delivered 50 years ago in Washington.

Obama last week proposed a package of measures intended to reduce gun violence following the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting that killed 20 first grade students and six staff members.

In his speech on Monday, Obama recalled King's dream for freedom for all Americans, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or geographic or economic status.

"Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm," said Obama, who used a Bible that belonged to King at his swearing-in ceremony.

King's father, Reverend Martin Luther King Sr., also was a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. It sits on Atlanta's historic Auburn Avenue near the King Center, established in 1968 by the slain activist's widow Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006. On the avenue not far from the church is King's grandparents' home, where he was born in 1929.

King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Nearly a million people visit the King Center each year, viewing an eternal flame honoring King and crypts holding the remains of King and his wife and attending an array of programs promoting non-violent social change.

Around the country, where Martin Luther King Day has been a federal holiday since 1986, banks, financial markets and government offices were closed.

A march along Auburn Avenue was set for later in the day, and a rally to address such issues as education, housing, peace, justice and voter registration, organizers said.

Also planned was a Day of Service, with an array of community service projects in Atlanta in honor of King.

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (7)
walkman321 wrote:
I think it is interesting how the democrats use a MLK (who by the way was a Republican) to push their causes when they tried everything in their power to stop the civil rights movement. Remember they guys with the fire hoses and the guys that blocked the doors of the schools and told black people to set at the back of the bus and started the KKK…hum they were democrats. The republicans were the ones pushing for equality. People need to start reading before you are hood wink even more….shame shame shame

Jan 21, 2013 2:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
gripp13ndk wrote:
Please don’t cloud the truth with facts! You will be
condemned by the liberals !

Jan 21, 2013 3:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Perv889966 wrote:
Dr. Martin Luther King was never elected to a political office, yet he was effective in changing the direction of this nation toward equality for all. In fact he sacrificed his life for this cause.

I feel like the U.S. Mint needs to make a silver dollar in his honor. 100% silver, not this alloy stuff.

Jan 21, 2013 4:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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