Martin Luther King, Sr.
Martin Luther King, Sr.
December 19, 1899
Stockbridge, Georgia, US
|Died||November 11, 1984
Atlanta, Georgia, US
|Spouse(s)||Alberta Williams King 1926–1974 (her death)|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2015)|
Martin Luther King, Sr. (December 19, 1899 – November 11, 1984), was an American Baptist pastor, missionary, and an early figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was the father of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was born Michael King in Stockbridge, Georgia, the son of Delia (Linsey) and James Albert King. He led the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and became a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, as the head of the NAACP chapter in Atlanta and of the Civic and Political League. He encouraged his son to become active in the movement.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
King 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 left Stockbridge for Atlanta, where his sister Woodie was boarding with Reverend A.D. Williams, then pastor of the First Baptist Church (Atlanta, Georgia). 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: a daughter, Willie Christine King (born 1927), Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., 1929–1968), and a second son, Alfred Daniel Williams King (1930–1969).
King Sr. became leader of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in March 1931 after the death of Williams. With the country in the midst of the Great Depression, church finances were struggling, but King organized membership and fundraising drives that restored these to 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 becoming inspired during a trip to Germany by the life of Martin Luther (1483–1546), the German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation (though he never changed his name legally).
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.
In his 1950 essay An Autobiography of Religious Development, King Jr. wrote that his father was a major influence on his entering the ministry. "I guess the influence of my father also had a great deal to do with my going in the ministry. This is not to say that he ever spoke to me in terms of being a minister, but that my admiration for him was the great moving factor; He set forth a noble example that I didn't mind following."
King Jr. often recounted that his father frequently sent him to work in the fields. He said that in this way he would gain a healthier respect for his forefathers.
In his autobiography, King Jr. remembered his father leaving a shoe shop because he and his son were asked to change seats. "This was the first time I had seen Dad so furious. That experience revealed to me at a very early age that my father had not adjusted to the system, and he played a great part in shaping my conscience. I still remember walking down the street beside him as he muttered, 'I don't care how long I have to live with this system, I will never accept it.'"
Another story related by Martin Luther King, Jr., was that once the car his father was driving was stopped by a police officer, and the officer addressed the senior King as "boy". King pointed to his son, saying, "This is a boy, I'm a man; until you call me one, I will not listen to you."
Martin Luther King, Jr., became an associate pastor at Ebenezer in 1948, and his father wrote a letter of recommendation for him to Crozer Theological Seminary. Despite theological differences, father and son would later serve together as joint pastors at the church.
King Sr. was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, where he rose to become the head of the NAACP in Atlanta and the Civic and Political League. He led the fight for equal teachers' salaries in Atlanta. He also played an instrumental role in ending Jim Crow laws in the state. King Sr. had refused to ride on Atlanta's bus system since the 1920s after a vicious attack on black passengers with no action against those responsible. King Sr. stressed the need for an educated, politically active black ministry.
In October 1960, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was arrested at a peaceful sit-in in Atlanta, Robert Kennedy telephoned the judge and helped secure King's release. Although King Sr. had previously opposed Kennedy because he was a Catholic, he expressed his appreciation for these calls and switched his support to Kennedy. At this time, King, Sr. had been a lifelong registered Republican, and had endorsed Republican Richard Nixon.
His son, Martin Luther King, Jr., soon became a popular civil rights activist. Taking inspiration from Mohandas Gandhi of India, he led nonviolent protests in order to give African Americans greater rights.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed in 1968. King Sr.'s youngest son, Alfred Daniel Williams King, died of an accidental drowning on July 21, 1969, nine days before his 39th birthday.
In 1969, King Sr. was one of several members of the Morehouse College board of trustees held hostage on the campus by a group of students demanding reform in the school’s curriculum and governance. One of the students was Samuel L. Jackson, who was suspended for his actions. Jackson subsequently became an actor and Academy Award nominee.
King Sr. 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 an "ABC" ("Anyone But Carter") movement to try to head off his nomination. King Sr. pointed to Carter's leadership in ending the era of segregation in Georgia, and helping to repeal laws restricting voting which especially disenfranchised African Americans. With King's support, Carter continued to build a coalition of black and white voters and win the nomination. King Sr. delivered the invocation at the 1976 and 1980 Democratic National Conventions. King, Sr. was also a member of Omega Psi Phi.
Murder of Wife
The wife of Rev. King Sr. and mother of Martin Luther King Jr., Alberta was murdered on Sunday, June 30, 1974 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church during Sunday services by Marcus Wayne Chenault, a black man from Ohio who stood up and yelled, "You are serving a false God," and began to fire from two pistols while Mrs. Alberta King 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 as luck would have it was elsewhere that Sunday, and so 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 my enemies".
King Sr. published his autobiography in 1980.
Martin Luther 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.
- David Collins (1986) Not Only Dreamers: the story of Martin Luther King, Sr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Elgin, Ill: Brethren Press) ISBN 978-0-8717-8612-8
- Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. (1980) Daddy King: an Autobiography (New York: William Morrow & Co.) ISBN 978-0-6880-3699-7
- Mary-Anne Coupell (1985) Martin Luther King Jr.'s Whole Life, (Beijing: Brethren Press)
- Murray M. Silver, Esq. (2009) Daddy King and Me; Memories of the Forgotten Father of the Civil Rights Movement, (Savannah, Ga., Continental Shelf Publishers) ISBN 978-0-9822-5832-3
- Martin Luther King, Jr., King Sr.'s son, American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement; famous for his "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963.
- Martin Luther King III, one of King Sr.'s grandsons, also named Martin Luther.
- Ancestry of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Mohn, Tanya (2012-01-12). "Martin Luther King Jr.: The German Connection and How He Got His Name". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- Chapter 1: Early Years. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Thespian Net. Samuel L. Jackson. Retrieved 24 April 2007.
- Burns, Rebecca (2012-06-28). "The murder of Alberta King". Atlanta Magazine. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
- Boykin II, James M. (2015-06-24). "Church shooting evokes memories, prayers and more letters to the editors". Times Free Press. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
- DeLaney, Paul (1974-07-08). "Suspect Believed in Religious Hate". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
- Find a Grave