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Americans Observe Holiday Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. - 2004-01-19

The widow and son of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. were among those attending a commemorative service and peace rally for the slain civil rights leader in his hometown.

The birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated in an ecumenical service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King, a Baptist minister, preached until he was assassinated in 1968.

His widow, Coretta Scott King, said her husband showed the world the power of non-violence as a supreme force for human liberation.

"In this election year, we commemorate the man whose leadership was instrumental in strengthening our democracy by securing voting rights and political empowerment for African-Americans and all disenfranchized citizens," she said. "We also commemorate the leader who taught us that the noblest goal was not conquest of enemies, but reconciliation with adversaries."

One of the civil rights leader's four children, Martin Luther King III, is taking over as president of the King Center, which was founded by Coretta Scott King after her husband's assassination.

Mr. King said the United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, but it still needs to address a disparity between the rich and the poor.

"I would hope that had Martin Luther King Jr. lived, that we wouldn't be having to address this issue of 35 million living in poverty and 45 million with no health insurance," he said. "There's something wrong with a nation that doesn't begin to address critical issues."

After the church service, thousand of people participated in a peace march down historic Auburn Avenue to the King Center.