Nation honors King on day of Obama inauguration

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 21, 2013 at 7:18 pm •  Published: January 21, 2013
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ATLANTA (AP) — Commemorative events for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. slid seamlessly into celebrations of the swearing-in Monday of the nation's first black president, with many Americans moved by the reminder of how far the country has come since the 1960s.

"This is the dream that Dr. King talked about in his speech. We see history in the making," said Joyce Oliver, who observed King Day by visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., built on the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968.

In Atlanta, at the 45th annual service for the civil rights leader at the church where he was pastor, those gathered in the sanctuary were invited to stay to watch President Barack Obama's second inauguration on a big-screen TV.

As the nearly three-hour service closed at Ebenezer Baptist Church, organizers suggested forgoing the traditional singing of "We Shall Overcome" because the inauguration would begin. But the crowd shouted protests, so the choir and congregation sang the civil rights anthem before settling in to watch the events in Washington.

In the nation's capital, dozens took pictures of the King statue before walking to the National Mall for the inauguration.

Nicole Hailey, 34, drove all night with her family from Monroe, N.C. She attended Obama's first inauguration four years ago and was carrying a commemorative Metro ticket from that day with Obama's face on it.

She and her family visited the King memorial before the swearing-in.

"It's Martin Luther King's special day," she said. "We're just celebrating freedom."

At the ceremonial inauguration, Obama took the oath on a Bible once owned by King. He called it "a great privilege." The King Bible was one of two used; the other had belonged to Abraham Lincoln.

In Columbia, S.C., civil rights leaders paused during their annual King Day rally to watch the inauguration on a big screen. Most of the crowd of several hundred stayed to watch Obama's address.

"You feel like anything is possible," Jelin Cunningham, a 15-year-old black girl, said of Obama's presidency. "I've learned words alone can't hurt or stop you, because there have been so many hateful things said about him over the past four years."

At the Atlanta service, King's youngest daughter, Bernice King, said the country had been through a difficult year, with divisive elections, military conflicts and natural disasters.

"We pray that this day will be the beginning of a new day in America," she said. "It will be a day when people draw inspiration from the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. It will be a day when people realize and recognize that if it were not for Dr. King and those who fought the fight fought in that movement, we would not be celebrating this presidency."

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