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"I Don't Hate Anybody"

"Is he sincere when he says, 'I don't hate anybody'," the visitor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia inquired.

"Yes, he is," the Ebenezer member replied emphatically.

If any group of people know the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Sr. it is the Ebenezer membership. For more than forty-four years he served Ebenezer as associate pastor with his late father in-law, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams; then as pastor; and finally as co-pastor with his late sons, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Reverend Doctor Alfred Daniel Williams King, Sr.; as well as the first non-family member to pastor Ebenezer in seventy-five years, the Reverend Doctor Otis Moss, Jr. Martin Luther King, Sr., has not always been able to make the much publicized statement which makes him exemplary to his family and endears him to his audiences.

The controversy which he created within minutes after his birth, may have been a portent of the controversies in which he would spend his life. On December 19th, 1899, Mr. and Mrs. James Albert King of Stockbridge, Georgia, a hamlet forty miles south of Atlanta, were very proud of their first son (he was their second child—a daughter Woodie Clara, was older) and each parent had selected a name for the son. Mrs. King had chosen Michael Luther. Mr. King had chosen Martin Luther. Mrs. King was the victor and in deference to his mother, he was known as Michael Luther until her death, then he began to use the name Martin. In the early thirties, when he applied for his first passport to visit the Holy Land, he legally changed his name from Michael to Martin.

The infamous Plesey vs. Ferguson Decision was rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States three years before Martin Luther King, Sr., was born, thus for more than half his lifetime, he has been an eye witness to the dehumanization, brutality, and oppression which were inherent in the Plesey vs. Ferguson Decision and he vowed he would always hate the white man. If there is a dichotomy between the early vow, and the later Dr. King, it is because Martin Luther King, Sr. believed the prophets of the Old Testament, the words of Jesus in the New Testament, and the words of the Constitution of the United States of America. He also vowed to wage an unrelenting fight against the system that sanctioned such injustices and inequalities as he witnessed. His son, Martin, would recall his father saying, "I don't care how long I have to live with this system, I will never accept it." And, he hasn't accepted the inequities, injustices, and deprivations to which the Black man has been heir.

He always challenged the system. He questioned the white storekeeper, a redoubtable community figure in Stockbridge, when the storekeeper engaged in blatant cheating. As a child, he questioned a law that would operate "separate but equal" schools for Black children three months in each year, and for white children nine months in each year. Hence, at sixteen when he arrived in Atlanta, he had only a fourth grade education.

It is ironic that more than thirty years before his son led the now historic Montgomery Bus Protest, Martin Luther King, Sr. protested the humiliating treatment he received from a Montgomery bus driver. Later, having witnessed the brutality meted out by an Atlanta bus driver to a group of Negro passengers, he resolved not to ride the buses. He kept his resolve.

He chaired the committee of the Atlanta Branch NAACP that won equal salaries for Black teachers with their white counterparts in the Atlanta Public School System. He was a leader in forcing Fulton County (Georgia) officials to remove the Jim Crow signs from the court house elevators. As a result of an intensive voter registration drive in which Dr. King was very influential, Atlanta employed Negro policemen in 1948. An officer in the Atlanta Voters League, he always urged his members to register, and once they were registered, to vote.

Like any father, Dr. King would have preferred that Martin Luther King, Jr. not imperil his life by becoming a leader in the quest for justice and equality. However, Martin Luther King, Jr. had inherited his father's leadership and commitment which would not permit him to work from the sidelines. Dr. King, Jr. knew he always had his father's support and confidence. The elder King was often one of the bondsmen for the protesters in addition to giving leadership to Ebenezer Baptist Church which was always a spiritual haven for the battle-weary civil rights soldiers. He joined his son on the Selma to Montgomery March. 

In 1969, Dr. King was elected the first Black man to serve as a Fulton County Jury Foreman in modern times.

From Morehouse College, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Sr., received the Bachelor of Theology degree; and honorary degrees from Morris Brown College, Atlanta; Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio; University of Haiti, Port Au Prince, Haiti; Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia; Virginia Seminary and College, Lynchburg, Virginia; Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina; Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida; and Berea College, Berea, Kentucky. 

Dr. King retired from the active pastorate on August 1, 1975, but he is not inactive.

He continues his memberships with many Atlanta organizations including Economic Opportunity Atlanta which provides training and jobs for "the least of these." In great demand as a preacher and a speaker, he received one of his greatest accolades on Sunday, September 25, 1977, when Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, introduced him to deliver the sermon for the One Hundred Thirteenth Anniversary of Zion Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.

Among the numerous awards and citations he has received is the Herman L. Turner Award 1972 Clergyman of the Year, Georgia Region, National Conference of Christians and Jews which included a visit to Israel for him and his wife. Their daughter, Mrs. Christine Farris, accompanied them to the Holy Land. In 1975, Senegal awarded him the Order of the Lion, the nation's highest award to a foreigner.

From the South of more than sixty years into the twentieth century to Oslo, Norway, where his son was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, is a long, treacherous road which could be traveled only by the valiant, and the courageous.

From little Stockbridge, Georgia to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver the sermon at the Inaugural Prayer Service was not a glamorous, acclaim-filled journey. Martin Luther King, Sr. was invited to speak on that significant occasion because he had never wavered in his beliefs, or faltered in his struggles that would bring equality and justice to every man. He was invited to deliver the sermon on that day because he is a contemporary Job who through his tragedies, never fails to say,

"I love the Lord, He heard my every cry and pitied every groan. 
As long as troubles shall arise, I'll hasten to his throne."

An imposing figure, a humanitarian, blessed with an expansive personality, he does not deal in trifles, but he sets his sights on the stars and charts a course to reach them. He is a loyal friend whose friendship knows no midnight.

For nearly forty-eight years, he had a loyal, devoted co-worker in his wife, Mrs. Alberta Christine Williams King, the quiet humorous, musically gifted lady who often provided the balm for his sometimes abrasive honesty. Mrs. King and music were synonymous. As a pianist, organist, and choir director,

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