“The scenic sunny skies and blossoming azalea’s were an idyllic backdrop on Atlanta’s downtown historic Auburn Avenue,” said Maynard Eaton, National SCLC Communications Director, describing the solemnity of the wreath laying ceremony on the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The ceremony took place this week at the crypt of Dr. King, gently nestled on the grounds of the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, where he is entombed along side his wife Correta Scott King.
Rev. Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr., Chairman of the SCLC board and a Distinguish Senior Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University in Atlanta, recalled his last conversation with Dr. King on April 4, just hours before King was struck down. At the time Dr. LaFayette was SCLC’s National Coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign.
Earlier in the day the two men met in Dr. King’s room at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis to put the finishing touches on a press release concerning the Poor People’s Campaign and to plan Dr. King’s arrival in Washington after the Memphis demonstration. As LaFayette took his leave to catch a plane to Washington, D. C. he heard the last words Dr. King ever spoke to him.
“We are going to internationalize and institutionalize the non-violence movement – to be discussed later,” LaFayette recalls King saying.
Later never came. A sniper’s bullet splattered Dr. King’s magnificent brain onto the balcony outside his hotel room before the sun set that day.
“We are here today to say that the dream is alive and well, and still on the move,” Dr. LaFayette said to the ceremony participants.
He went on to say, “… on this day, Dr. King was assassinated, and his life taken – but not the movement. His life still lives. Even the Occupy movement looks like the Poor People’s Campaign. This reaffirms that Martin Luther King, Jr’s Movement is alive.”
SCLC’s newly elected Vic-President; Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian spoke to the crowd which included a number of tourists on Spring Break. He said of Dr. King:
“He was the prophet of our Age. He still speaks to us from the grave. We must respond if we are to be what we know deep within ourselves to truly be. Martin was our savior, a savior to our people and to our nation.”
Dr. Vivian summed up the philosophy of the Georgia preacher who earned a doctorate in Philosophic Theology from Boston College:
“Dr. King always saw the clash of opposites as a moral and spiritual battle. Civil rights were only a step to him. Only when we would be a beloved nation and a beloved society, Martin taught, would the true moral and spiritual battle be won.”