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Had he lived, Martin Luther King, Jr., would be 73 years old now—still not old by today’s standards. And that just serves to show how young he was when he accomplished so much. Before he was thirty, Martin Luther King, Jr., was already a national figure—he and Ralph David Abernathy were instrumental in founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And, for someone who changed the direction of the country as we knew it, King was himself drifting through life, pretty much without anchor for a while.

He knew he was an orator, but he was unsure whether he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and become a preacher. After graduating from Morehouse College is his native Atlanta , he entered a theological seminary. When he finished there, he became a doctoral candidate at Boston University . He appeared headed toward becoming a perpetual student. He got his feet firmly on the ground, though, after he attended a lecture about Mohandas Ghandi. King took to the principals of non-violence with all his heart, and thereafter patterned his own life on the Mahatma. Like Ghandi, King would be a martyr.

Perhaps no more fitting tribute could be raised to the slain civil right pioneer than one of his own statements: “If a man hasn’t found something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

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