Rev. Dr. Alfred King, affectionately known as A. D. King, younger brother of Martin L. King, Jr., was the victim of a suspicious drowning death 51 years ago on July 21,1969, 15 months after his brother’s assassination. Today, in Atlanta, Rev. A.D. King’s beloved widow, Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King is still making history and keeping his legacy alive with the A D King Foundation, Inc along with the foundation’s President Dr. Babs Onabanjo, also the Faculty Senate Chair and a Professor at Atlanta Metropolitan State College.
At the moment, Mrs. King is in a state of mourning after having to say goodbye to three other Historic, Honorable, Unforgettable Civil Rights Leaders within the last four months. Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery passed March 27, 2020; Rev. Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian and Congressman John Lewis both passed on Friday, July 17, 2020, leaving the world deeply in mourning, including me.
The Year 2020 will never be forgotten for so many shocking reasons: the tragic loss of sports icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna being killed in a helicopter crash, our many civil right leaders passing on and the two diseases which continue to dominate this year, COVID-19 Virus and Systemic Racism.
In March 2020, I was blessed to be part of the A D King Foundation when adults and children were exploring the historical Civil Rights Trail from Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma commemorating the 55th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama with the graceful, energetic, Mrs. King at age 88.
It was a breath-taking experience watching and hearing her reflect on the stories about her husband, A.D. King and his journey to Selma on March 7, 1965 with Lowery, Vivian, Lewis and many other significant leaders and citizens.
Before we ended our journey in Selma, Alabama, we visited Birmingham to see where Mrs. King and her husband’s Church Parsonage was bombed in 1963.
We visited Kelly Ingram Park where the Statue of A D King and two other pastors kneeling down praying is located. Also, the place where the water hoses and dogs were used on the Negros who were demanding an end to systemic racism, poverty, violence, and agitating for justice and freedom.
We rode by the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing site where the four little girls were killed in the blast by the Ku Klux Klan and one little sister who losted her eye and is still living. Decades later the three men responsible for their deaths were finally sentence to life in prison and justice was served. The last one died in prison last month in June.
Birmingham Civil Rights Museum was beautiful from our bus and we could see memorable monuments that were painful to see but it’s history. We will complete the full tour on our annual visit next year since we had so many other historical stops.
In Montgomery, we rode by Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (presently, known as Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church), the first church where Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. became a Pastor (1954-1960). We visited Rosa Park Museum
where we actually got on a bus and could hear the bus driver telling her to get up from her bus seat and she refused. Also, we heard people screaming at the civil rights activists during their Sit-Ins.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is where my heart sunk many times.
The youths and adults learned from the film and seeing actual items that depicted the way it was during the Civil Rights Movement. As I watched the hurt and pain on Mrs. King’s face, I began feeling the hurt and pain she experienced in her face.
We ended our Saturday activities by going to the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Festival that had entertainment and great soul food dishes.
On Sunday morning before the “Bloody Sunday” activities, we joined with another organization from Atlanta, M.A.D.I.O.C. Inc (Making A Difference In Our Communities) Founder and CEO Felicia Stanley- Johnson with her staff and young people.
We stopped at Lowndes Interpretative Center on Hwy 80 where I learned new history about “Tent City”, etc. A place where homeless registered Black voters with their families lived for a year or two after they were kicked off of their own land by wealthy white landowners.
We rode on down Hwy 80 to visit the Memorial Site of Viola Liuzzo, the first known Caucasian shot and killed by the Ku Klux Klan under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, Director of FBI because she was volunteering with voting registration with the civil rights movement. All of this was so educational and meaningful.
Afterward, we attended church services at Brown Chapel AME Church
where majority of the Democratic Presidential Nominees including Former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden gathered and spoke while Mrs. Naomi King sat comfortably up front with nephew, Martin Luther King III. They acknowledged her and her late husband, Dr. Rev. A.D. King. She was very pleased so now she was ready for the re-enactment of that infamous March across the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge resulting in “Bloody Sunday” over 55 years ago.
Millions came from around the world to march across this bridge. At her age, Mrs. King was determined to start the march in the absence of her other King family members. Her nephew, Martin Luther King III was marching also. She felt so honored and was actually joyed and excited to be there.
On March 7, 1965, she was not with her husband because she was home taking care of their 5 children, Alveda, Alfred II (deceased), Derek, Darlene (deceased) and Vernon King (deceased). But that day will forever be etched in her mind. That’s the day life changed for A.D. King and others marching across that bridge to stand up so blacks would have the right to vote, have equality, justice and more.
They began their march and were stopped in their tracks when the Alabama State Troopers used tear gas, Billy clubs, excessive force to beat them that many received life-long severe injuries. A.D. King received broken ribs, John Lewis said he thought he saw death
because he was the first one in the line to meet those troopers, who actually fractured his skull, was left bleeding and was unconscious. But later on, a strong, brave, and determined young Lewis got up from his hospital bed with his injury and he kept fighting and getting in “Good Trouble” throughout his life. Including 33 years as an United States Representative until God called him to retire permanently on Friday, July 17, 2020 at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. Although stricken with cancer, he still made one more last powerful appearance and speech on that Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Many other true warriors were on that bridge that day but the two we lost in 2020, also included Rev. C.T. Vivian who kept fighting from that day until he passed away peacefully the same day as Lewis on July 17, 2020 at age 95. Prior to their deaths, their other friend, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, the “Dean of the Civil Rights” led the march on that day and many other marches before his passing on March 27, 2020 at age 98.
After “Bloody Sunday”, Dr. Lowery became Chairman of a committee to take their demands to Alabama’s Governor George Wallace known as the Governor for his historical statement, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever” but changed his heart years later. The next step was for the Civil Rights Leaders to go to Washington D.C. when the historic bill, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In my opinion, the Lord did not call these three strong Civil Rights Leaders home in an election year for people to sit at home and not exercise their voting rights knowing these three leaders and others made ultimate sacrifices to have the right to vote.
While Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King is still here to vote, and her President, Dr. Babs Onabanjo of A D King Foundation, myself and others are still here to vote, we will do our civil rights duties whether it’s in honor of the Kings, Lowery, Vivian or Lewis. We shall and will do our part because every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, honor and with grace.
A D King Foundation will hold a demonstration on September 4, 2020 on Metropolitan Pkwy (Wendy’s) in Atlanta, Georgia to promote voter registration and to demand for police reform and end to systemic racism and dehumanization of people of color. “Peoples Lives Matter”.
Never forget your history and don’t allow it to repeat itself, no more of the shameful years that we know about. And thank you, Mrs. King, for allowing me to observe and learn from you as I took that walk with you down memory lane remembering how it was 55 years ago in the state of Alabama. Always remember the famous words of Congressman Lewis, “Get In Good Trouble”, “Win People Over With a Spirit of Love” and to be a “Non-Violence Warrior”.
Dr. Naomi Ruth Barber King wants us to remember today is her husband, Rev. Dr. A.D. King’s 51st Memorial Anniversary and wants us to remember her great Civil Rights Leader Friends; Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, and Congressman John Lewis who were recipients of the highly honorable Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, “They fought a good fight and made a difference in our world today and forever. Well done! Rest In Peace and may God grant their families and loved ones the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”.
Rev. C. T. Vivian Interview by Dr. Babs Onabanjo: https://youtu.be/EFmnjWW-F-U
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