Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By   •   January 20, 2014   •   Topics: ,

mlk jr. and billy graham

Billy Graham was in Australia at the time of King’s death. He remembers the moment someone approached him with news of King’s assassination, which was followed by journalists seeking a quote: “I was almost in a state of shock. Not only was I losing a friend through a vicious and senseless killing, but America was losing a social leader and a prophet, and I felt his death would be one of the greatest tragedies in our history.”

Describing how he met King during a 1957 Crusade meeting in New York City, Mr. Graham writes in his autobiography, “One night civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I was pleased to count a friend, gave an eloquent opening prayer at the service; he also came at my invitation to one of our Team retreats during the Crusade to help us understand the racial situation in America more fully.”

As their friendship grew, King asked Mr. Graham to call him by his nickname. “His father,” explains Graham, “who was called Big Mike, called him Little Mike. He asked me to call him just plain Mike.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., entered the Christian ministry and was ordained in February 1948 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, at the age of 19. In 1954, upon completion of graduate studies at Boston University, he accepted a call to serve at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

While there, King was an instrumental leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, made famous by the nonviolent resistance and arrest of Rosa Parks. He resigned from Dexter Avenue Baptist in 1959 to move back to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

From 1960 until his death in 1968, he also served as co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

King credited Mr. Graham with having a significant part in reducing the tension between whites and blacks in the South. In 1965, Mr. Graham canceled a tour of Europe to preach a series of crusades in Alabama, praying that the Gospel would tear down walls of division between the races and seeing the importance of his work alongside King’s.

King later said, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.”

During the civil rights movement, Mr. Graham preached: “Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.”

Reflecting on how his thinking changed through the years, Mr. Graham writes, “I cannot point to any single event or intellectual crisis that changed my mind on racial equality. At Wheaton College, I made friends with black students, and I recall vividly one of them coming to my room one day and talking with deep conviction about America’s need for racial justice.

“Most influential, however, was my study of the Bible, leading me eventually to the conclusion that not only was racial inequality wrong but Christians especially should demonstrate love toward all peoples.”

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40 Comments

  1. Penny says:

    There is only one Candidate that feels that all people are equal and he is christian but doesn't boast about it. This country seems more divided than ever and we all need to pray for peace.

  2. Michael says:

    I thank God for the prophetic men such as Drs. King and Graham. Many contemporary clergy could learn from their example of friendship, commitment to God and His people, and breaking down barriers in the House of God. Christ died for us all.

  3. Derrick says:

    I thank God for Martin Luther King the Prophet of the Century and Billy Graham the most world renown evangelist of our time, both of you have made this world a better place…

  4. Ronisha says says:

    God is gonna bless you through your ministry. As you reach out to the young people.

  5. Carol says:

    God made each and everyone of us equal. The earth is His and the people in it, no matter what color or nationality. When I had heard of Dr. Kings assassination I was sick at heart to think anyone could be so cruel.

  6. Shane says:

    read Acts 10…. God doesn't care where we're from…. He only wants us to live for Him!

  7. Charlie says:

    My first comprehension of racism was as a boy of 12 years old. Some friends and I went to the movies, and my black friends had to sit in the balcony.I did not understand why. Even then I knew it was wrong. Thank God for Dr. King and Dr.Graham.

  8. Trent says:

    We (as Christians) are called to be ministers of reconciliation. We must encourage others to be reconciled to God and to our fellow man. This includes racial reconciliation.

  9. Jane says:

    Praise God for you Dion. May God grant you your heart's desire to see Him glorified among the youth you work with.

  10. Dion says:

    As an American Black who was born at the end of the '60s, I'm thankful for the ministries of Dr. King and Dr. Graham in changing the hearts of men through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my goal as a youth minister to do the same.