Happy Birthday Martin Luther King Jr!

Today we celebrate civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who would have turned 87 on January 15th. King was able to come to Seattle only once in his lifetime, a two-day visit in November of 1961. His itinerary on the first day included a lunchtime lecture titled "Segregation and the Civil Liberties: Implications for Students," which he delivered to 2,000 students at the University of Washington's Meany Hall. In the speech, King urged President Kennedy to issue an executive order declaring all segregation unconstitutional, and finished to a standing ovation. King then delivered a evening lecture at the Temple de Hirsch on Capitol Hill. The second day of King's visit began with two morning assemblies at Garfield High School, which had the largest number of African-American students in the city. In the evening was the big event - a lecture at the old Eagles Auditorium downtown, which was packed to the rafters. Yvonne Beatty, then a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church choir, recalled that "the hall was shaking - literally," but when King began to speak, "you could hear a pin drop, that was how quiet and receptive the audience was." After his speech and reception, King asked his friend (and host), Rev. Samuel McKinney, if he would take him to Mitchell's Bar-be-cue, which McKinney had pointed out earlier in the day. McKinney recalled that King said, "I don't want to go to anybody's home, or any fancy place, I want to go up there." They ate and talked at the restaurant until about 3am, and according to McKinney, King ate two helpings of everything on the menu. King finally got to his hotel room about 4am and missed his 8am flight back to Atlanta.

Beatty later spoke of the effect King's visit had on Seattle: "I think it encouraged us to follow his direction. His influence directed the routes that we took in Seattle. The marches that we had in Seattle were all peaceful forms of protest." McKinney said, "He was the right man at the right time at the right place with the right message," and added that King "was impressed by the progressive attitude he saw in the city, especially in the African-American community."