Monday, January 21, 2008


Hundreds gather to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.
Associated Press

ATLANTA — Hundreds of observers, politicians and civil rights leaders crowded Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church today to the celebrate the man whose legacy has now been celebrated for longer than he's lived.

King's nephew —Isaac Newton Farris, Jr.— noted the King Center has asked the nation to commemorate his birthday for 40 years —for more years than the civil rights leader lived.

He says:"We would be remiss if we did not commemorate Martin Luther King,Jr. a champion of peace in a time of war."

King was assassinated at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. He would have turned 79 this year.

Former President Bill Clinton, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin were among the dignitaries attending the ceremony.

King's actual 79th birthday was January 15, but the federal observance is recognized on the third Monday in January.

His widow — Coretta Scott King— worked for more than a decade to establish her husband's birthday as a federal holiday. King's birthday has been a national holiday since 1986, and is celebrated in more than 100 countries.

The holiday has been observed at Ebenezer Baptist Church —where King preached from 1960 until 1968— every year since his death. But it holds a new political significance this week because it falls closer to major primary elections than ever before, since many states moved the elections up to jockey for influence.

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