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Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr., and his brother, A.D. King

January 18, 2021

Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who many know as one of the greatest leaders of the Civil Rights Movement until his death in 1968. Inspired by his Christian beliefs, he helped African Americans achieve more progress towards racial equality than anyone before him, and he did so through nonviolent protest.

There’s no question that Dr. King left a great legacy through his significant accomplishments and is an inspiration to all of us. He was the driving force behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. This demonstration resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.

He also served as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Under his direction, the SCLC organized peaceful protests and voter registration drives to end segregation. In 1963, Dr. King led over 200,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial, commonly known as the “March on Washington.” During this demonstration on the steps of the Washington Monument, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for an end to racism. These events were crucial in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Dr. King is well known throughout the world and we honor him every year on the third Monday in January, but what do we know about his younger brother, A.D. King? In his own right, A.D. was instrumental in advancing the Civil Rights Movement. Following in the footsteps of his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., A.D. was a pastor of several different churches in the southeast. A.D. endured persecution and numerous personal attacks. In Atlanta in October 1960, he was arrested along with his brother and 70 others while participating in a lunch-counter sit-in, and on May 11, 1963, his home in Birmingham was bombed.

In August of that year, after a bomb exploded at a prominent black lawyer’s home in downtown Birmingham, outraged citizens–intent on revenge–poured into the city streets. While rioters were throwing rocks at gathering policemen and the situation escalated, A.D. climbed on top of a parked car and shouted to the crowd in an attempt to quell their fury. He said, “My friends, we have had enough problems tonight. If you’re going to kill someone, then kill me . . . Stand up for your rights, but with nonviolence.” Like his brother, A.D. was a staunch believer in the importance of maintaining nonviolence. However, unlike his brother, A.D. remained mostly outside the spotlight. He usually stayed in his brother’s shadow, supporting Dr. King throughout the Civil Rights Movement but never looking for the limelight.1

A.D. and Dr. King were very close. On the day of Dr. King’s murder, April 4, 1968, A.D. and his brother met with other civil rights leaders in their hotel room at the Lorraine Motel. After the meeting, they playfully had a pillow fight. A.D. blamed himself for not protecting his brother and was devastated by his death.2 Sadly, on July 21, 1969, nine days before his 39th birthday and only 15 months after Dr. King’s murder, A.D. was found dead under suspicious circumstances.

Through his wife, Naomi King, the A.D. King Foundation was formed in 2008 to honor A.D. and his beliefs around nonviolent conflict resolution. A.D. believed in building bridges of mutual understanding, cooperation, goodwill, respect, and love for humanity regardless of gender, race, religion, and culture. He believed this would achieve a peaceful coexistence and bring us closer to building a loving and gracious community of humanity. To find out more about the A.D. King Foundation, please click here for more information.

Ronald Blue Trust is a proud sponsor of the A.D. King Foundation, and our CEO, Nick Stonestreet, has had a long-standing friendship with Naomi King. Click here to view a conversation between Nick and his wife, Ronda, and Naomi King, as Naomi recalls the night her home was bombed.

1 Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._D._King
2 A.D. and M.L. King: Two Brothers Who Dared to Dream, a book written by Naomi Ruth Barber King.

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