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Remembering King

Civil rights pioneer Andrew Young on his mentor and friend

Remembering King

Click the slide show to hear Andrew Young, who visited BU in November, talk about his relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Andrew Young first met Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) in 1957, the young pastor expected to talk about theology, spirituality, and the burgeoning civil rights movement. Instead, they discussed what was a more pressing topic on King’s mind: his baby daughter and the newfound joys of fatherhood.

“We ended up having a good daddy conversation,” Young remembers. “That was the way he was. Whenever he had a chance, he was a family man, rolling on the floor with his children.”

After that first meeting, when the two men talked about their families, Young — who later became the first African-American to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the mayor of Atlanta — got involved in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was led by King, and became one of King’s colleagues and confidants throughout the civil rights movement. He helped with the drive to register black voters in Alabama, was jailed for demonstrating in Selma, Ala., and in St. Augustine, Fla., and was with King in Memphis at the moment he was shot and killed while in town to mediate a dispute between the city and its sanitation workers.

Nearly 40 years later, he says that King remains with him in his thoughts, words, and actions, whether he is looking back on the civil rights movement or contemplating today’s human rights issues. If he had lived, Young says, King would have helped to resolve conflicts in the United States and around the globe, expanding his focus beyond the struggle for equality in America.

“He was willing to give his life for his beliefs, and he did,” says Young. “Almost every day he was put to the test, and he could have wavered at any time, but he pressed on.”

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.