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The OTHER Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and President-elect Obama

[Editor's Note: In honor of the Martin Luther King King holiday, I am pleased to present the blog post below by guest- author William Seebeck. I've known Bill for decades, going back to our time working together at Lexis-Nexis in Dayton, Ohio during the 1980's. Bill has a wealth of experience in online systems, banking, publishing, and public relations.]

By Bill Seebeck

When I walked in on them one late winter morning in 1974, Dr. King Sr. and his dear wife Alberta were sitting at a table doing what one does at a Church every week, putting the parish bulletin together by hand and getting things ready for the Sunday service. It was just the two of them, no pomp or circumstance, two servants of God doing His work.

Dr. Albert Manley, president of Spelman College was kind enough to set up my visit that day to Ebenezer Baptist Church to meet the King’s. I was already so grateful. Mrs. King mentioned that people were always coming by from seemly everywhere just to say hi. They found that surprising in a way. We spoke for a few more minutes, I offered to help with the bulletin but they were just finishing up.

Dr. King said, “Well, why don’t we take a walk, I believe you will be wanting to visit Martin’s grave.” He put on his coat and we left the church. He tucked his arm in mine for balance and I believe had a walking stick in the other. On the way, he told me that things had been hard since Martin’s death six years before. He said that his other boy Alfred, who was helping out at the Church had drowned and they were missing both of them very much. “With Coretta having to travel around a lot”, he said, “Mrs. King and I often look after the children.” He wasn’t sure that at his age, he was much good to them.

We arrived at what I remember was a sort of parking lot area where Martin’s eternal flame was blazing. Dr. King said that they had plans to build a whole Center within which the grave would be contained.

We stood silently in prayer. As we did, I couldn’t help but remember standing before another eternal flame in April 1964 at Arlington. The spring thaw had started and the graveside of President Kennedy was muddied. Plywood boards surrounded it so people could walk up to it. I was with my Catholic Youth Organization group that day and we stood and prayed beside Senator Robert Kennedy, who had accompanied us.

On the walk back to the Church, Dr. King asked me what denomination I belonged to. I told him I was a Catholic and he said that he was so surprised by the Catholics and how supportive they were of the civil rights movement and of Martin’s work. The King’s were such humble people. I told him that being there was one of the greatest moments of my life, he smiled and gave me a double take.

I took leave of them a few minutes later. I had a book on Martin and asked if Dr. King would autograph it. He said, “Why would you want my signature?” Whatever my answer was I remember stumbling over my words and feeling totally stupid. They just laughed, and patted me on the back as we said goodbye. It was a wondrous moment for me.

In the summer of that year, the man who was most respectfully called, “Daddy King” was to suffer yet again, when a crazy gunman entered the Church and shot Mrs. King to death while she sat at the church organ. Dr. King, Sr. stayed with us another 10 years and had great influence on many more people, as President Carter held him up for praise.

I think of Dr. King, Sr. today because he was a great leader too, born in another century, the son of a sharecropper, a shepherd to his flock in Atlanta and many more of us around the country and yes, father to a man of peace who dreamed that “one day my four little children will grow up in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That dream has come true today. Alleluia, Alleluia. That dream has come true today.

© 2009 WBSeebeck

Comments

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John Taylor

Thank you Bill, and thank you George. Today is surely a glorious day.

John Taylor

CAREN NASH

That surely was a very touching piece of history. I will always remember the days before Martin Luther Kings (both of them ),I remember alot of things that I did not understand, why the big fuss over voting rights, Black people were not in my area of childhood, I was so un-informed, it's sad looking back now. I saw only what was editted for TV. That's not an excuse, that is the way it was in my area.DON'T SHAKE THINGS UP !! Well, thank GOD THAT WE DON'T LIVE LIKE THAT ANY MORE. TODAY IS A DAY FOR ALL OF AMERICA, AND THE WORLD TO REJOICE.

Judith Tuckwell

I have lived in New Zealand, south Pacific, most of my life. I was in my 20's when I first heard of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and the work he was doing, the influence he had, in the USA. His goodness shone from him and changed my life - it wasn't only his words, but also who and how he was. Even today, next century on from then, my heart softens and I feel connected to a greater good whenever I see his picture or read his words. His parents must have been remarkable people in their own right.
His life lives on in all who remember him and honour him.

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