ROSE NOLEN: Martin Luther King proves that justice can prevail

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | 12:07 a.m. CST

It is happening somewhere every day. Justice is prevailing.

Next week, we will once again be observing the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. One of the reasons I'm glad I lived during the King years is that I can always point to the fact that in his case, I saw justice prevail. In our everyday world where innocent people are often sentenced to prison, where the guilty often walk away free and the greedy rob the poor on a regular basis, I can look back on the life of Dr. King and remember that sometimes truth does triumph over injustice. I think this is an important example to remember, especially for young people.

The life of Martin Luther King Jr. seems incredible when you realize he only lived on this earth for 39 years. He was 27 when history tapped him on the shoulder and he answered the call. A look at his early life indicates how well he was prepared for the journey ahead.

Dr. King was born and received his early schooling in Atlanta. He graduated from Morehouse College and went on to Crozer Theological Seminary near Chester, Pa., having decided by that time to join his father in the ministry. He graduated from Crozer with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1951. He received his doctorate in philosophy from Boston University in 1955. He had married Coretta Scott earlier and accepted a call to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in 1954.

When Rosa Parks was arrested and jailed in December 1955 for refusing to give up her seat for a white man on the bus, which was against the law in Alabama, Dr. King was already becoming a well-known member of the African-American community in Montgomery. The arrest of Mrs. Parks lit a spark in the slowly building trash pile of unrest among Montgomery's underclass. They swiftly went into action, and the Montgomery Improvement Association was born, with Dr. King as president. The organization made a plan to boycott the buses, and after putting together a pool of some 300 vehicles to transport people to and from work, the boycott was a stunning success. The boycott lasted nearly 13 months.

In the course of the boycott, Dr. King and several others were arrested for illegal boycotting, which was only the beginning of the tangles with the law that would plague him throughout his life. As a result of his participation in civil rights protests, he was arrested more than a dozen times. In 1956, the segregation laws of Montgomery as well as those of Alabama were declared unconstitutional, and the fight to rid the country of segregation laws was well under way.

Among Dr. King's many attributes was that he always made certain that his actions were theologically sound and that he was able to demonstrate biblical principles within the context of his civil-rights activities. He taught by example, displaying at every turn that violence was not the answer to the problem. His ability to promote love in the midst of hate endeared him to people throughout the world.

Through his speeches he was able to articulate his beliefs in such a meaningful way that many were drawn to his method of protest without bloodshed as the path to liberation, as opposed to the philosophy spread by others that armed combat was the only way to achieve freedom from oppression.

Martin Luther King Jr. would have been a great teacher in any age. His power of persuasion lay in his absolute belief in the theology he preached. His constant efforts to define and edify his spiritual messages reflected his deep devotion to the vocation he had chosen. He was equally devoted to the cause of equal rights for all people.

We were indeed privileged to have a man of his distinction among us during those terrible years of strife. A lesser man could not have stood in his shoes and made the progress that changed the world.

When I remember Martin Luther King Jr., I always remember that justice is often a long time delayed but ultimately will prevail.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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