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Martin Luther King Jr., his life, his legacy

Graphic courtesy of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. (Courtesy graphic)

Graphic courtesy of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. (Courtesy graphic)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

At the 45th Space Wing and around the military, we commemorate many courageous individuals who’ve made tremendous impacts on our great nation. During the month of January, one of those individuals we celebrate the life and accomplishments of is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.  He was an activist and an inspirational leader who believed that the segregation of “Negroes” (a widely used term to describe Black people during the civil rights era) was unjust and unethical. His courage and determination led to the ending of legal segregation.

King’s journey to becoming this prominent man certainly wasn’t easy. He endured plenty of hardship while trying to unify the country. He was arrested nearly 30 times during peaceful protests to assert non-segregated ideologies.

In 1955, the famous Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. King and other activists collaborated in initiating the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” which lasted for 381 days.

In response to the Bus Boycott, segregationists bombed King’s house on January 30, 1956. Thankfully, his family wasn’t injured during the bombing. His calm, peaceful reaction to this horrific accident surprised the nation.

King’s peaceful approach emulated that of his mentor, Mahatma Gandhi who believed that nonviolence and love trumped all hostility. He often referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

Some of his most popular pieces were his “I Have a Dream” speech and the civil rights manifesto “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. In 1964, King was named “Man of the Year” and was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

As a civil rights leader, he was a prime target by white supremacists and many others because he was on the forefront of equality. There were many threats made towards him and his family; some of which resulted in death.

On June 30, 1974, King’s mother, Alberta Williams King was playing the organ in church when she was shot and killed by a member of the church. The shooter, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. said, “I received instructions to kill Martin Luther King Sr., but killed Mrs. King because she was closer in proximity”

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis. In 1983, President Ronald Regan signed a bill to pay homage to King’s contributions. Today, we celebrate his life each year on the third Monday in January.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced many adversities which included several attempts to take his life. Despite those challenges, he persevered on his quest to ensure freedom and equality for all people. His selflessness and dedication to equality had a tremendous impact on our society then and still stands strong today. His massive impact on diversity and inclusion has molded our Air Force to be the most powerful and efficient military in the world. It is important that we always provide an environment free of discrimination, inequality and injustice. Each member of the team− no matter what race they are plays a vital role in the success of our daily mission. As we work side-by-side with our peers, always remember the impact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on equality which allows us to work together despite our differences.