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Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King

Text of address by Charlene Montford

1/22/2008 11:23:17 AM


Address by Charlene Montford
Director Community Planning and Development, City of Lynchburg
Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Luncheon
Randolph College
January 16, 2008

"As I stand here and look out upon the thousands of Negro faces, and the thousands of white faces, intermingled like the waters of a river, I see only one face – the face of the future." Martin Luther King, Jr., April 18, 1959

Good afternoon. It is indeed a pleasure to stand before you today, to celebrate the life, the works, the leadership, and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. King’s life was ended by an assassin’s bullet while he was on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was in Memphis to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that City.

April 4, 2008, represents 40 years since the death of one of the world’s greatest leaders. He was but 39 years old, but in that short time, he had created a movement in this country - like none that had existed before - or since. I’m sure most, if not all of you here today, know very well the history and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t have to tell you that at age 35, he was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m sure you know very well that Dr. King was a very intelligent person and graduated high school at age 15. He went on to attend and graduate from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He later enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955.

I know that I don’t need to go into detail about the marches, the arrests, the beatings, the racial discrimination and threats on his life and the lives of his family that he faced daily. And…… I know that I don’t need to discuss the suffering and death that was ever so present and real during these times………the 1950s and 1960s were tough and fragile times in our country. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the face of hope for our country.

There are very few events or occurrences in a person’s life where you remember where you were……what you were doing……..what you were wearing… the exact moment in time that something so significant happened that changed and impacted you and what you hold sacred. For me, such events have been few.

Interestingly enough – I don’t remember much from elementary school, high school, college, my twenties, thirties, forties, and now my fifties………..but I do remember…….very vividly…… the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It was a Thursday - and my sister and I were at school – Jacksonville Senior High School, in Jacksonville, NC. We had just integrated the public school system in Jacksonville in 1966……….the first year of mandatory integration. We had spent two years at the newly integrated Jacksonville Senior High School and the community was really working hard at "getting along".

On that day, April 4, 1968, almost every single black parent in Jacksonville came to school and took their child or children home. My parents were among the first. The news hit my family like a bombshell. It was if a member of my own family had died.

History is indeed made up of significant events which shapes our future and outstanding leaders who influence our destiny and the destiny of those in which they come into contact with. Marti

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations


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