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50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


WHEREAS, on April 4, 1968, the United States lost civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; and

WHEREAS, over the course of his 39 years, Dr. King rose to prominence through his impeccable leadership, vision, and dedication to the practice of peaceful resistance in the face of injustice across the nation during the American Civil Rights Movement; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King was the founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was established to promote spiritual principles, provide leadership training, and ensure economic justice and civil rights; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King was elected president of the SCLC in 1957 and remained president until his assassination in 1968; and

WHEREAS, in this role, Dr. King used the power of oratory and acts of nonviolent resistance, including protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience, to achieve legal equality for African Americans; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King had a tremendous influence on the Civil Rights Movement in the Commonwealth. He visited Virginia on numerous occasions to preach and to encourage voter registration and participation in the political process, to protest the closing of Prince Edward County Schools, and to provide wisdom and guidance on civil demonstrations against segregation and injustice; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King supported legislative changes to ensure that legalized racial segregation and discrimination in hiring, public accommodations, education, and transportation were not permitted, and through combined efforts, the United States Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964; and

WHEREAS, the following year, as a result of the March for Voting Rights led by Dr. King, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated many legal barriers to voting for African Americans; and

WHEREAS, during the final three years of his life, Dr. King sought to correct economic injustices that affected minority communities and to give a voice to individuals who lived in poverty, which culminated in the “Poor Peoples Campaign”; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King’s vision of a nation and a world in which all people cared for one another came from his unwavering belief in, “The Beloved Community,” where love and spirit “will bring about miracles in the hearts of men”; and

WHEREAS, 50 years after his assassination, Dr. King’s message of love and justice still resonates in our society, and it is vital that we, as citizens of this great Commonwealth and nation, continue to embrace Dr. King’s dream of a nation where “all men are created equal”;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize April 4, 2018, as the 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ASSASSINATION OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.