Local leaders remember MLK

SANDUSKY Where were you April 4, 1968? Although many people can't quite remember what they were doing the day Martin L
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Where were you April 4, 1968?

Although many people can't quite remember what they were doing the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, they do remember the civil rights leader's voice and vision for equality.

The 40th anniversary of King's death prompted the Rev. Curtis Brown, retired pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, to reflect on King's life.

Brown, 83, said he was baffled by the assassination of the 39-year-old, but King's "dream" will remain alive.

"It was just a time of sorrow and grief for all of us because of the contribution he had made in the civil rights movement," Brown said. "It's so senseless someone would assassinate a man who had done so much for humankind. He's still remembered by all of us. Thank God he made the contribution."

The day before his assassination, King gave his last speech -- his "I've been to the Mountaintop," address -- saying:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

King was shot by James Earl Ray the following day at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. He was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m.

Brown said he's grateful to have had the privilege of being alive during King's activism and also to have been in the same room with him and hear him speak several times.

"We need to continue to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day," Brown said. "He is the man who gets the credit for all that progress that has been made. He was an extremely outstanding man. No one has made a greater contribution."

Former Sandusky city commissioner Leroy Sizemore, 79, said those contributions will not be forgotten.

"I think things are much better now than they were before his assassination," he said. "Educational wise things have changed a lot ... More opportunities are being offered and are being offered to minorities. There's just a lot more acceptance."

Walsh University professor of communication and Sandusky native Richard Koonce said it's upsetting to see some of what King worked so hard to achieve go downhill.

"I think it's a travesty we don't have some kind of memorial, something here in the city to honor him," Koonce said. "It doesn't surprise me, because there's quite a bit that remains to be done in Sandusky. So many people claim they believe in the dream, but far too many people are sleeping."

Koonce, although too young to remember King's assassination, said unlike what he has heard and read about King, few community members stand up against injustices.

"They're so used to being down that they just seem to accept," he said. "And those who attempt to shake things up are called troublemakers."

Koonce said he is happy gradual process is being made with the election of black leaders at the city, state and possibly national level, but we can't stop there.

"It takes some commitment, courage and vision," he said. "You can't give up on the city or the people. A lot of things we do are in the spirit of Dr. King. People perish for lack of knowledge. We have to keep his spirit alive by reaching out to people. King reached out to people of all races, for all the have-nots."