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Tue, 12.19.1899

Martin Luther King Sr. born

Martin Luther King Sr.

*Martin Luther King Sr. was born on this date in 1899.  He was a Black Baptist pastor, missionary, and an early figure in the 20th century American Civil Rights Movement.  

He was born Michael King in Stockbridge, Georgia, the son of Delia Linsey and James Albert King.  He was a member of the Baptist Church and decided to become a preacher after being inspired by ministers who were prepared to stand up for racial equality. He was boarding with Reverend A.D. Williams, then pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

He attended Dillard University for a two-year degree. After King started courting Williams' daughter, Alberta, her family encouraged him to finish his education and to become a preacher. King completed his high school education at Bryant Preparatory School and began to preach in several Black churches in Atlanta.  In 1926, King started his ministerial degree at the Morehouse School of Religion. On Thanksgiving Day in 1926, after eight years of courtship, he married Alberta in the Ebenezer Church.  

The couple had three children in four years: Willie Christine King, Martin Luther King Jr. and a second son, Alfred Daniel Williams King.  King Sr. became leader of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in March 1931.   With the country in the midst of the Great Depression, church finances were struggling, but King organized membership and fundraising drives that restored the health. By 1934, King had become a widely respected leader of the local church.

That year, he also changed his name (and that of his eldest son) from Michael King to Martin Luther King after a period of gradual transition on his own part.  He was inspired during a trip to Germany for that year's meeting of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). While visiting sites associated with reformation leader Martin Luther, attendees also witnessed the rise of Nazism. The BWA conference issued a resolution condemning antisemitism, and the senior King gained deepened appreciation for the power of Luther's protest.  

King was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church for four decades, wielding great influence in the Black community and earning some degree of respect from the white community. He also broadcast on WAEC, a religious radio station in Atlanta.  King played a notable role in the nomination of Jimmy Carter as the Democratic candidate for President in the 1976 election. After Carter's success in the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary and the Florida primary, some liberal Democrats were worried about his success and began a movement to try to head off his nomination. King pointed to Carter's leadership in ending the era of segregation in Georgia and helping to repeal laws restricting voting which especially disenfranchised Blacks. With King's support, Carter continued to build a coalition of Black and white voters and win the nomination. King delivered the invocation at the 1976 and 1980 Democratic National Conventions. King was also a member of Omega Psi Phi.   

His wife Alberta, was murdered by Marcus Wayne Chenault on Sunday, June 30, 1974, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church during Sunday services. Chenault was a 23-year-old Black man from Ohio who stood up and yelled, "You are serving a false god", and began to fire from two pistols while Alberta was playing "The Lord's Prayer" on the church organ. Upon capture, the assassin disclosed that his intended target was Martin Luther King Sr., who was elsewhere that Sunday. After failing to see Mr. King Sr., the killer instead fatally shot Alberta King and Rev. Edward Boykin.  Chenault stated that he was driven to murder after concluding that "black ministers were a menace to black people" and that "all Christians are his enemies".  

With his son's widow, Coretta Scott King, King was present when President Carter awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to King Jr. posthumously in 1977. In 1980, he published his autobiography. King Sr. died of a heart attack at the Crawford W. Long Hospital in Atlanta on November 11, 1984, at age 84.  He was interred next to his wife Alberta at the South View Cemetery in Atlanta.  

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