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King Holiday Observed in His Home Town


The U.S. holiday marking the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior was observed across the country Monday. In Atlanta, Reverend King's hometown, black leaders vowed to continue the struggle for justice and equality.

At the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior preached during the 1960s, dignitaries recalled his message of non-violence and his commitment to justice.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin urged people in Reverend King's hometown to live his legacy of persistent and tireless action every day of the year.

"We have an obligation because we are the keeper of the King legacy in Atlanta, a legacy of fighting for social and economic justice, a legacy of desegregating public facilities, a legacy of marching with the poor and neglected, a legacy of demanding peace against senseless war," she said.

These are difficult times for the King family. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, suffered a major stroke in August. And King's four children are sharply divided over a proposal to sell the King Center and the tomb of the slain civil rights leader to the U.S. government's National Park Service.

King Center president Isaac Newton Farris Junior, a nephew of Martin Luther King Junior, defended the idea of selling the center, which was founded by Coretta Scott King shortly after her husband's death.

"In this way, we can devote more resources, both human and economic, to developing programs, not managing buildings," he said. "You will still be able to visit the King Center. We just might not own the building."

Former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, one of the Reverend King's closest aides, supports the sale. Mr. Young is leading efforts to build a new civil rights museum near the King Center.

King was a central figure in the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, leading nonviolent protests against segregation and discrimination. He was assassinated in the U.S. city of Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Many Americans marked the day by attending services or volunteering in their community in tribute to the slain civil rights leader. In Washington, President Bush remembered King as a man committed to equal rights.