“This day has become a tradition here in Pell City,” said Pell City Mayor Bill Hereford, who spoke at the Fifth Annual St. Clair County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast held at the Pell City Civic Center.
Hereford said he has admired King for many, many years.
“His legacy is obvious in our day-to-day lives, particularly those of us who were here in the 1960s,” he said. “Sometimes words and passion fade over time, and for many of you the injustices that your parents and grandparents endured are only stories told to you by your elders. We all know that injustice is still with us and we see it in some form every day — racism, of course, but bullying in our schools, domestic violence and many other forms of injustice.”
Hereford said as a society, we badly need to continue to read, teach, learn and remember King’s words.
“As a lawyer and a judge, I am particularly fond of two of his sayings,” he said.
Hereford said the first saying comes from King’s 1955 Montgomery Improvement Association speech.
“If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus was merely a dreamer who never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie and love has no meaning,” Hereford said. “And he concluded by quoting Amos Chapter 5. He said we are determined to work until ‘justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
Hereford said his other favorite is on how we go about making decisions.
“Dr. King said a coward asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politically correct?’ And vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ There comes a time when a man or a woman must take a position that is neither safe nor politically correct nor popular, but must do it because conscience says it is right. This is a great challenge facing modern man.”
Hereford said we are infinitely better as a nation because King walked among us.
“We would each be wise to honor his memory, not only on this day but every day by living as he lived,” he said.
Guest speaker the Rev. Charles Lee spoke about King’s God.
“Dr. King wanted to be remembered, not so much for him — he just really wanted to serve God,” Lee said. “Dr. King tried to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift the burden of the oppressed. He kept on serving and preaching, not to be a good citizen — he just wanted to do God’s will.”
Lee said when people refer to King as a “civil rights leader,” they are giving him a title less than his stature.
“Dr. King was not just a civil rights leader,” he said. “That was a part of the fruits of his labor. He was a God-called preacher. The call of God to anybody is the highest calling. You can’t get a higher calling than that.”
Lee said King must be remembered for doing the will of God.
“Who is this God that Dr. King was willing to do the work of?” he said. “God is spirit. Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth. Dr. King worshiped God in spirit and truth. God is love. Not just one doing loving acts — His makeup and essence is love.”
Lee said L.O.V.E. stands for many different things:
• Letting Out Virtuous Energy
• Loosing the Oppressed from Vicious Evil
• Lifting Others with Visionary Enlightenment
• Letting Out Voracious Enrichment
• Lavishing on Others Vitality and Edification
Lee said the Lord is the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep as in Psalm 23.
“He is the God who calmed and comforted Dr. King in the midst of the violence, in the wee hours of the morning when Dr. King was wondering if he should go on with the work in Montgomery,” Lee said. “God calmed his spirit and soothed his soul.”
Lee said God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
“Dr. King had a lot of enemies, even among ministers,” Lee said. “When he wrote the letter from the Birmingham jail, he expressed concern over the silence of ministers in the face of racism.”
Lee said if you are determined to do God’s will, you will have enemies and some of them will be in the church.
“Don’t sit around crippling yourself with the paralysis of analysis pondering about enemies,” he said.
Lee said God is the only one who can truly show us how to overcome and teach us to sing “We Shall Overcome.”
“If it had been left to me, we would have to say, ‘We Might Overcome,’” Lee said. “Or if it had been left to you or to Dr. King. But left to Dr. King’s God, we can sing ‘We Shall Overcome Some Day.’ With God, we shall overcome. He promised never to leave us alone.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.