Martin Luther King Jr.: Leader, Icon, Man Of The People


WSBTV: 29 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

He was born Jan. 15, 1929, as Michael King Jr. His father was Michael King Sr. But in the early 1930s, after a trip to Germany, he changed his name to Martin Luther, in honor of the theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation. His son thus became Martin Luther King Jr. His family members would continue to call him Mike or M.L.


On Sept. 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. A 42-year-old Georgia native named Izola Ware Curry, walked up to him and asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr., to which he replied yes. “I have been looking for you for five years,” Curry said, before plunging a letter opener into King’s chest. It was never clear why Curry, who was committed to a hospital for the criminally insane, stabbed King. On April 3, 1968, King fully recounted the event in his historic “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech, which included the famous passage: “The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge on my aorta, the main artery, and once that’s punctured you drown in your own blood. That’s the end of you. It came out in the New York Times the next morning that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died.”


King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. King met Scott during his first year at Boston University. She was a New England Conservatory of Music. Martin Luther King Sr. performed the ceremony in the yard of the Scott home in Perry County, Alabama. After the reception, the new couple spent their honeymoon night in a black funeral home in Marion, Al., because no white hotel would register them. They would have four children — Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter and Bernice. Coretta Scott King, who carved a significant legacy in her own right, died in 2006. Yolanda King died in 2007.


In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize. At the age of 35, he was the youngest person to ever win the Peace Prize. He remains the youngest man ever honored. He donated the $54,000 prize money — about $400,000 today — to the ongoing civil rights movement.


King is a Grammy winner. He posthumously won in 1971 for Best Spoken Word Album for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.” The speech from which the album was made was delivered April 30, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City.


In 1963, following the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and his spiritual mentor Mahatma Gandhi, King became the first African-American to be named Time magazine’s Man of the Year. Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie was named in 1936. The only other African-American to get the honor was Barack Obama, who was named twice.


King is the only non-president to have a memorial installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Covering four acres, the memorial opened to the public on Aug. 22, 2011, on the edge of the Tidal Basin, near the Lincoln Memorial.


In the summer of 1944, at the age of 15, King and a group of Morehouse students traveled to Simsbury, Conn. to work on a tobacco farm. The students were paid for their work and were able to spend the summer in the North and in a non-segregated society, which played a significant role in King’s early development. He would later write: “After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation. It was hard to understand why I could ride wherever I pleased on the train from New York to Washington and then had to change to a Jim Crow [racially restricted] car at the nation’s capital in order to continue the trip to Atlanta.” He returned in the summer of 1947.


In late March of 1968, King — against the recommendations of most of his staff — went to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers. A riot broke out during a rally and King returned to Atlanta. Fearing that he would be associated with violence, King returned to Memphis on April 3. As a thunderstorm raged outside, he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” speech at Mason Temple. On April 4, at about 6 p.m., while he was getting ready to go to dinner, King stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel and told musician Ben Branch to play his favorite song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.” A King biographer said those were his last words. At 6:01 p.m., a bullet fired from a flop house across the street, cut King down.


King was arrested more than 30 times for his civil rights activities, including a particularly rough arrest in Birmingham on April 12, 1963. In response to the ongoing protests, a group of white clergy penned a “Call to Unity,” in the local paper. In it, they called King an outsider and agreed that while social injustices existed, the best way to battle racial segregation was through the courts, not in the streets. King responded with his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he initially started writing in the margins of the newspaper. The letter famously stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.”


According to his biographer Clayborne Carson, King wrote three major books during his life: “Stride toward Freedom,” his first book in 1958, focused on his work in Montgomery. “Why We Can’t Wait,” came out in 1964, followed by “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?” in 1968. Between that time he also release two books made up of meditations and sermons. In his lifetime, Carson estimates that King produced or played a role in producing some 300,000 documents about his life in the form of sermons, letters, speeches and even federal surveillance. One of the largest collections of his papers is at Morehouse College and will soon be housed in the upcoming Civil and Human Rights Museum. Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center is the home to 80,000 pages of writings, letters and notes that King donated to the school in 1964. Dozens of biographies have been written about King. Many of the FBI’s surveillance records, written and audio records, concerning King are currently held in the National Archives, but are sealed from public access until 2027.

More of this extraordinary human being’s and gifted soul’s life here


122 Responses to “Martin Luther King Jr.: Leader, Icon, Man Of The People”

  1. 3 hopefruit2
    January 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    A fascinating and deeply moving tribute to a civil rights icon. Thanks UT for this post.

  2. 5 Melanie
    January 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    The Obama family at service project today at DC Central Kitchen pic.twitter.com/AdC7VIfuHv— petesouza (@petesouza) January 20, 2014

  3. 6 hopefruit2
    January 20, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    • 7 CEB
      January 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      I am always especially moved by photos that show PBO’s interaction with his daughters. Girls need Dads like him to help them to develop self-esteem.

      Thanks NW (formerly UT) for this beautiful MLK tribute. I learned some new things about him.

      • January 20, 2014 at 6:13 pm

        CEB, I also admire him so much as a father. I loved my Dad but he wasn’t a person I could talk to or who really was very much a part of my daily life. We didn’t have a lot of money and his life was difficult. Whenever I see POTUS with his daughters I think how amazing that would be. And how wonderful they are. I appreciate the President and First Lady both as wise and loving parents.

  4. January 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    A gorgeous post Nerdy, what a lovely tribute to an extraordinary man. Thank you legend.

  5. January 20, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Awesome post, Nerdy. (It’ll take me a while to get used to calling you that. Just like transitioning from calling my niece “Julie” to “Julia”.)

    • 17 hopefruit2
      January 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      LOL – I didn’t even realize she had changed her name on TOD! I still call her “UT” 🙂 🙂 🙂 Heh..

      • 18 Nerdy Wonka
        January 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        It’s all good, HF. 😀

        • 19 99ts
          January 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm

          Maybe “the artist formerly known as UT” 🙂 – wonderful post NW – thank you so much.

          There are times I feel ashamed of my heritage – so I didn’t support racism in my world or yours – I didn’t support apartheid – yet I accepted that it existed – when everyone stops accepting that “some folks were taught this way, brought up this way, know no better” – the life of Martin Luther King will be recognized and celebrated for the miracle that it was – and is.

    • 20 Nerdy Wonka
      January 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks, LL. Whatever name you choose is fine by me. 🙂

  6. 21 jackiegrumbacher
    January 20, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    This is beautifully presented, NW. You gave real thought and love to it and I learned some new facts I didn’t know before. This has been an emotional day and its such a blessing to come to this haven that you and Chips give so much to. All of our lives would be bleaker and far more ignorant without it.

  7. 23 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    New National Pew poll…..58 % do not believe Christie did not know about the bridge closing.

  8. January 20, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I adore my gardener. He fixes broken sprinkler heads as an included service. That is all.

  9. January 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Beautifulllllll and informative….loving this tribute to Dr King

  10. 29 hopefruit2
    January 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

  11. 31 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Christie Official: Most Sandy Aid Went To Hoboken Residents, Not The City

    Ferzan said Hoboken requested $100 million in storm aid and outlined approximately $70 million he said was given to the city. Most of the money Ferzan identified went to individual residents and businesses rather than the city government.

    oh how silly……The 70 million came from the Feds…..not the State…….sorry…..apples vs oranges.

    These people think they are so clever.


    • 32 99ts
      January 20, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Wonder if those city residents and businesses were Christie supporters? Some good comments on the link e.g.

      “I guess all the individuals and businesses are going to use that money to bill levees, drainage systems, sumps pumps for the next storm.”

    • January 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Well, and the point is that Christie didn’t have any control over the money the Feds gave to residents. It will be interesting to see the documents Christie’s people come up with. They seem to be dragging their feet. If they are trying to destroy evidence or manufacture new info they would be in a world of trouble. Seems like it would be better to come clean right now rather than wait.

  12. 34 hopefruit2
    January 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

  13. 35 57andfemale
    January 20, 2014 at 4:42 pm

  14. 36 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    ISTANBUL (AP) — The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group says it will attend peace talks in Switzerland after the United Nations withdrew an invitation to Iran.

    The Syrian National Coalition’s political committee welcomed the U.N.’s move in a statement and said it confirms participation in the so-called Geneva 2 conference.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the withdrawal less than 24 hours after he surprised the U.S. and others by saying he had invited Syria’s closest regional ally.

  15. 37 57andfemale
    January 20, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    • 38 Linda
      January 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      Darn….. I can’t get AJAM with my carrier……they are in some kind of distribution fight with AJAM .

      • 39 57andfemale
        January 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

        We prefer it. It’s not perfect but it’s very good and certainly tons better than anything else. Let your provider know that you want AJAM, and do it daily. Tweets, emails, whatever. It matters.

    • 40 Linda
      January 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Joe Scarborough melts down throws temper tantrum on live TV – goes after David Shuster

  16. 42 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Update: Two people have been confirmed dead after the accident at International Nutrition, according to the office of Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, who oversees the county coroner.

    The names of the two victims have not been released.

    During a press conference Monday afternoon, Interim Fire Chief Bernard Kanger confirmed that there are fatalities. He declined to release information about how many people died until a full search of the building can be completed.

    Kanger said 10 people had been transported to area hospitals – four were in critical condition and six had injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Seven more people declined medical attention for their injuries, he said. Thirty-eight people were working at the plant.

    Authorities had not yet cleared the building, Kanger said around 3:10 p.m. Teams must secure the building to prevent further collapse before finishing their search, he said.

    There’s no chance that anyone lost in the rubble is still alive, he said. By midafternoon, the search shifted from a rescue to a recovery effort. Officials planned to spend the evening for the bodies, Kanger said.

    Kanger said not all the family members of the dead have been notified and wouldn’t be until the bodies are recovered.


  17. 43 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    2 confirmed dead after Omaha plant accident


  18. 44 donna dem 4 obama
    January 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm

  19. 45 yardarm756
    January 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm

  20. 51 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Joe Scarborough cannot not answer Chris Matthews questions.

  21. 52 Linda
    January 20, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    January 18, 2014

    Newark school boss Anderson cracks down on critics, suspends five principals in one day


    • 53 Layla
      January 20, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Calling Cory Booker……

    • January 20, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Yes Linda. The Christie regime’s bullying is crazy. Ed just did a segment on this and Bob Braun’s blog has great information.

    • 56 99ts
      January 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      I am stunned – literally had no idea how Christie was selling education to the highest bidder – and still the democrats voted for him!!!
      And this is Cory Booker’s town – unbelievable.

    • 57 99ts
      January 20, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      I gather there is a major ongoing dispute between Christie and the teacher unions – talk about retribution – megalomaniac etc How do right wing politicians survive? Are people truly that stupid that they vote to have public education dismantled before their eyes?

      • 58 57andfemale
        January 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm

        he hates teachers and is at full out war with teacher’s unions

        • 59 99ts
          January 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm

          Tricky to have an education policy without teachers – but I gather that is the goal.

          • 60 57andfemale
            January 21, 2014 at 12:47 pm

            99ts, we have a RWNJ running for Governor in IL whose entire platform is that he hates teachers, hates any union that helps teachers or workers. He’s a gazillionaire and his ads are running non-stop.

  22. January 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Nerdy wonker. This is a brilliant tribute to MLK. Is it okay if put it on my facebook? I want to send it to my Mom who believed in MLK and Robert Kennedy.
    Thank you.

  23. 64 GGail
    January 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    NW – this is awesome! Thanks!
    Some of Dr. King’s sermons can be found at the King Center – on it’s website. You get to see the typewritten sermons.

  24. January 20, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Here is a song written by singer/songwritter Peter Bolland in honor of MLK and His Coretta.

  25. January 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Because any celebration of Dr. King should be joyous, allow me to indulge in my regular feature: LL’s dinner menu

    Top sirloin steak, marinated in vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, and garlic pepper
    Baked potatoes
    Steamed brussel sprouts

    And I’m imbibing a homemade mai tai

    I’ll let you know how the steaks turn out in 4ish hours

  26. 67 57andfemale
    January 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Substitute the steak for salmon, and that’s tonight’s dinner at the 57 household.

    Just rum and seltzer for me, thanks.

  27. 68 Bobfr (aka Our4thEstate)
    January 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Outstanding tribute to Dr King, NK!!! Thank you!!!

    #FORWARD Together

    • 70 yardarm756
      January 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Having lived through that, I’d say it was valid and on point.

    • 71 Bobfr (aka Our4thEstate)
      January 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      As a white person, who confronted other white folk, including family members, who hated Dr King I could not agree more with this assessment:

      “It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one. Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.”

      What motivated me more than anything else was being witness to all those who IN_DEED ‘took the beating,’ and kept taking it, and kept emerging ever braver, ever more bold in their aspirations.

      When Dr King was murdered I was nearly 21 y/o. It, and the assassination of RFKJr in the same year, are among the darkest moments of my life. It wasn’t until 4 Nov 2008, that I began to feel – not think, nothing intellectual about it – just raw emotion, that a better day for humanity might still be in front of us.

      President Obama, and the vast international community supportive of him and his vision, have sustained that sense of hope every single day since.

      Yes We Can

  28. 74 yardarm756
    January 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Things have gotten better? Oh really! The ways to diminish a person are endless.

  29. 81 Dakota
    January 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Good Evening TOD Family.

    Just returned from our annual NAACP MLK event in the rotunda of the state capitol building and it was great. We had our essay contest winners read their entries and everyone was blown away by their maturity and insights. Our keynote speaker was Tannia Esparza of Young Women United and she was dynamite.

    The only downer was that Suzanna Martinez’s Chief of Staff, who was only supposed to read the Governor’s Proclamation, (supposedly the Governor was ill…ugh!) decided to give a speech before he read it! The committee chair kept giving him the “cut” sign…we only had an hour, but his ass kept blathering. Finally he shut-up. We decided that next year, no more politicians…particularly of the rethug variety! I know, we are non-partisan, but make no mistake…we know who is for us and who is agin’ us.

    Yesterday we hosted a dinner for the winners at Jambo Cafe here in Santa Fe. If you are ever here, do yourself a favor and have a meal there. The best African/Caribbean food you will ever have and it’s in the red and green chile state. Great ambiance and the owner, Ahmed Obo, has pictures of President Obama and Nelson Mandela prominently displayed!

  30. January 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    If someone else has posted this I apologize, but the pictures are too good to miss:


  31. 83 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    This post is Unbeatable. Great tribute Nerdy Wonka.

    Thank you/

  32. 84 Bobfr (aka Our4thEstate)
    January 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Chips, the Twitter widget that controls a user’s ability to verify their login continues not to function – at least for me. Have done a bit of research and it appears this has been a problem for other folk who have WordPress blogs. A suggested fix that I gleaned from comments is provided by @Fumeroism Fumero:

    “””Ok..took me a bit, but THANK you @lalamalangi.

    You do not have to use a downloaded Plugin (like I was using – Twitter Widget Pro), Twitter itself gives you the ability to create your own code — it self generates so you do not have to write code.

    For anyone who is a noob like me…
    1) go to your Twitter account, to your settings, then to Widgets.(its on the left side of the screen)
    2) click create new
    3) Look/scroll down to DOMAINS box..do you see your domain name? It HAS to be in there 2x. The 2nd one has to have your http://www.yourname.com or the http://yourname.com
    4) Click CREATE NEW – that will generate a code, and will be highlighted automatically
    5) Copy that code and go back to your website..open up a text widget
    6) Paste the code into the body of your text widget, save it and put it where you want.

    And there it is 🙂 “””

    If you don’t want to mess with it, not to worry. I’ll just continue doing the manual login. Thank you!!

  33. 87 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm


    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis says Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped a plan to appoint him the state’s first physical fitness ambassador when he launched a political campaign against a Christie friend.

    Lewis said Monday the governor called to dissuade him from running as a Democrat for state Senate in 2011 against Republican Sen. Dawn Addiego (ah-dee-AY’-goh). Lewis says he was told the fitness program they’d been developing wouldn’t materialize if he ran. Lewis says the governor felt the post “was a carrot he could pull away.”

    Lewis withdrew from the Senate race after a court ruled he didn’t meet a residency requirement. He now lives in Houston.

  34. 89 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 6:35 pm
  35. 96 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm
  36. 97 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    So 4 yrs ago, Gov of FL picked a Black woman as his Lt. Gov. She left the post under suspicion in 2012. Today a New Minority is picked again, this time, a Hispanic?

    Hmm? Rick Scott must think that the cure for a Victory in FL is a Minority? Dream On fool. Nov 2014, Floridians will not re-elect you fool.

  37. January 20, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    • 100 Nena20409
      January 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Those who tweet should as TeaNN…oops, CNN why their polls stated differently and them as Chuck Todd why WSJ/NBC polls had TBGOPers 2% points better than Dems?

      Oh I get it. Rasmussen is a rightie Poll. Their Polls these days are vastly different from others. They are trying to be relevant or are they trying to fake lefties out 😉 ❓ Hmm?

      Or has the Fear that was the healthcare.gov Glitches gone and Normalcy has finally come to US voters? I am rooting for the latter, Normalcy.

  38. 102 vcprezofan2
    January 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you, Ms Wonka, for this summary of MLK’s life. I actually learned a couple of new bits of info – really appreciate your efforts.

  39. 103 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Rafael Nadal Parera and Roger Federer reach Qtr Finals at the Aussie Open…….Congrats.

  40. 107 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Arm-Bumps…. 😉 ….. POTUS style

  41. 111 Nena20409
    January 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm


    A Connersville, Indiana police chief and candidate for Fayette County sheriff was shopping at a local gun shop this past weekend when he accidentally shot himself in the leg. David Counceller was putting his own 40-caliber Glock handgun back in its holster after examining a similar new model at the store. He was off-duty at the time.

    “I need to pay more attention,” Counceller told the Indianapolis Star. “I know what the dangers are. It was pure carelessness on my part.

  42. 112 a4alice
    January 20, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Hey you guys! Heard from Dudette about a half hour ago

  43. 117 99ts
    January 20, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Tweetie standing up for Mayor Zimmer in a big way – Chuckie can’t help himself – “If this is true” …

    I listened to the Lt Gov – she sounded just weird

  44. 122 Djoy4ful
    January 20, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Hello Everyone,
    Just had a wonderful time this morning at the Martin Luther King Ecumenical Interfaith Breakfast in Raleigh, North Carolina which is celebrating its 34th year of honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!

    Take a few to listen to the keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Otis Moss speak – once you hear him, you will never forget the experience – its inspirational, spiritual and truth telling. We are truly blessed to have him!

    These videos are available for viewing for a limited time only. Many thanks to the local WRAL TV, for making them available at all!

    Rev Dr. Otis Moss – 2014 MLK Breakfast, Raleigh, NC – http://www.wral.com/news/local/video/13312335/

    Also this talk by Donovan, a 10-year old student in NC public schools – http://www.wral.com/news/local/video/13312303/
    We must continue to advocate for the education of our children!

    Would those with a mastery of the art of tweet, Please share Rev. Moss’ speech. His powerful message deserves to be heard far and wide.

    Forgive, the repeat postings! Meant to place my comments on the MLK reflections post.

    Blessings, Donna from Raleigh

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