In His Honor
I have one personal story that always moves my heart.
It’s based in a small church in my old St. Augustine neighborhood. He was speaking there during his visit to St. Augustine in 1964. While he was there, a man came in, with a gun, intending to kill Dr. King where he stood. The man could not bring himself to shoot Dr. King. Later, the man said in a statement to the press, “I looked into his eyes and I couldn’t do it. I could see he was a God-sent man.”
His closing remarks in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty.”
Lines from his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” addressing many things, including the numerous threats coming from Memphis—that his life would be taken there—and it was:
"If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy."
The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.
And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got to stay together. We've got to stay together and maintain unity.
The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?"
That's the question.
Then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really 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 so 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!!