Irreplaceable Martin Luther King Jr.

When I think about the 1960’s, it brings back memories of death and funerals.

I was 11 years old when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis.  I would have sworn I was watching The Girl from U.N.C.L.E on a black and white tv in my room but it turns out it was probably The Flying Nun, which just illustrates my faulty recollection.  I also thought his was the funeral that involved a train journey but no, that was RFK a few months later.

ATLANTA, GA – 1960: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preaching from his pulpit circa 1960 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Dozier Mobley/Getty Images)

His death may not be as indelibly etched into my memory as that of JFK 5 years earlier, but I certainly recognized the loss.  Even as a sixth grader in the Boston area, I was aware of him, leading non-violent protests across the segregated south.  At the time, I was sad that he’d been killed and wondered what would happen to his causes.  I knew violence broke out in many cities that night and the days that followed.  But I wasn’t seeing anyone step up and take his place.

Fast forward to the summer of 2020.  Many times I thought about life as we would have known it if Dr. King had lived.  Would a white cop still think he could kill a black man in broad daylight and get away with it?  Would we actually have to declare that Black Lives Matter?  Would we still be fighting these battles? 

I don’t know.

What I do know is that no one ever came close to his eloquence.  No one ever came close to his charisma.  No one ever came close to his ability to bring people together to endure hard things in order to make things better.

“Martin Luther King, Jr., Man of Peace” (1966), Roy Lewis. Courtesy of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.

This is how he wanted to be remembered, quoting a favorite hymn by Alma Androzzo, on February 4, 1968:

If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain. 

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the Master taught, 

Then my living will not be in vain.

In his honor, please contact your senators and let them know you demand equitable voting rights for every eligible person in America.  Click here to find your senators, then call or email:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s