A nation pauses to mark MLK Day

Parades and wreath laying commemorate the life of civil rights great Martin Luther King Jr

A legacy set in stone and commemorated annually.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. paused to remember the life of civil rights great Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, with a series of events taking place across the nation to mark the annual celebration of his life.

Hundreds of people filled Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta — where King preached — to reflect on his legacy through prayer and song. It was one of many commemorations honoring the assassinated black rights leader and peace activist. At the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a wreath laying ceremony took place at the base of the MLK statue.

In Georgia, governor Nathan Deal said there were not many states that can boast a native son that merits a national holiday, but added, "We Georgians can."

Deal said this year he would work with state legislators to find an appropriate way to honor King at the Georgia Capitol, which drew a standing ovation from the audience. He did not give any specifics.

"I think that more than just saying kind thoughts about him we ought to take action ourselves," said Deal, a Republican. "That's how we embed truth into our words. I think it's time for Georgia's leaders to follow in Dr. King's footsteps and take action, too."

Deal also touched on criminal justice reforms his administration has tried to make, including drug and mental health courts and community-based services to keep non-violent criminals and young people out of prison.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte planned to deliver the keynote address for the 28th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium at the University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium.

In Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated, an audio recording of an interview with King was played at the National Civil Rights Museum. The recording sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King's wife more than 50 years ago.

Historians generally agree Kennedy's phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband's arrest in October 1960 — and Robert Kennedy's work behind the scenes to get King released — helped JFK win the White House.

The reel-to-reel audiotape was discovered by a man cleaning out his father's attic. The father, an insurance salesman, had interviewed King for a book he was writing, but never completed it and stored the recording with other interviews he'd done.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday is the third Monday in January

The Associated Press

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