Martin Luther King Jr never was a member of the Church of the Brethren but many members of the Church of the Brethren during the 1950s and 1960s were influenced by Dr. King's work for peace, justice, and racial equality.
Today, January 15, would have marked his 79th birthday. [Many persons do not know, however, that he was born Michael King, Jr. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. His name (and his father's name) was changed in 1933 to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the request of his dying grandfather.)
My most vivid memory is when Dr. King came to Manchester College and spoke in chapel on February 1, 1968. There was a great deal of hatred directed against Manchester College in 1968 when the community learned that Dr. King would be coming to campus. FBI agents reported that death threats had been made (King would be assassinated two months later in Memphis), and security from the airport to the College and at the College was extremely high.
As a college freshman, I was not fully aware of all the related drama but I was present and can still remember the impact of his dramatic speech, "The Future of Integration," and still have a printed copy of the speech.
Much has happened in the past forty years, some that would please Dr. King if he lived today and some, I fear, that would continue to frustrate him. Long before Martin Luther King, Jr., generations of Brethren worked for peace and justice and even in a more limited way for racial equality. On this anniversary of Dr. King's birth, and in the midst of the Church of the Brethren 300th anniversary year, let us continue to “hew out of mountains of despair a stone of hope ... (and) transform the dangling discord of our cities into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood (and sisterhood).”