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Keeping Alive Dream

Milligan honors life of Martin Luther King Jr. with service, community projects

By JAMES BROOKS
Press Staff Writer
jbrooks@johnsoncitypress.com

MILLIGAN COLLEGE — A man who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and who went to jail 39 times for civil rights protests got stymied by an ice storm Tuesday and was unable to get to Milligan College for a scheduled address in King’s honor.

Instead of the audience of 400 students who were in Seeger Chapel at 11 a.m., the Rev. Harold Middlebrook, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, Knoxville, talked about Dr. King’s message to a dozen friends and faculty of Milligan when he arrived after noon.

By then the students were out doing their scheduled community service projects on campus and at churches and other organizations in the Johnson City area. Classes were canceled for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, with the time devoted to the projects by various Milligan organizations and sports teams.

In addition to working at churches, students were at Appalachian Service Project, Buffalo Mountain Camp, Oak Hill Cemetery, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Salvation Army and the Johnson City Public Library.

“This day of service is part of Milligan’s ongoing dedication to serving others,” said Beth Anderson, director of Milligan’s Institute for Service Leadership. “Martin Luther King’s life and dreams reflect Milligan’s mission of servant leadership, and it is appropriate for us to dedicate ourselves to serving those around us.”

“The cycle of 40 is prominent in the Bible,” Middlebrook told those remaining at Seeger Chapel. “Noah had 40 days of rain. The children of Israel had a 40-year exodus. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, and at the end of each cycle there was a change. I see 40 years after the death of Dr. King a female and an African-American running for president of the United States. I am reminded of what my mother said when she took away the dinner plates: ‘Save your fork. The best is yet to come.’ ”

He produced a plastic fork from his pocket. “I say to those who fear a recession, don’t despair. When the nation is in a recession, black people are in a depression.”

He said everybody loves Dr. King today, but it was not so when he stood at his side. “Nobody talked of killing him when he was integrating lunch counters, because the haves ate at the country club. Nobody killed him when we rode the buses, because they rode in limousines. They didn’t care about voter registration because they believed they could buy off, run off or kill off anybody who got elected.

“It was when he took the minorities out of the ghetto, the blacks, the women, the Hispanics and organized the poor people’s campaign that he was killed by the system. They believed it was all right to kill anybody who disagrees with their system. In Memphis we knew there was a bounty on Dr. King’s life,” Middlebrook said.

“After his death Ralph Abernathy (who succeeded King as head of the South Christian Leadership Conference) gave a speech in South Carolina in which he asked, ‘Let us slay the dreamer and see what becomes of his dream.’

“We have to teach black history as I learned every morning at the breakfast table when my father read articles from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, In Alabama back then there were 12 registered black voters in one county. My 102-year-old grandmother passed the literacy test, interpreted a section of the U.S. Constitution and the Alabama Constitution. She had three registered voters vouch for her, not from the same family. When she got her voter’s registration she stood on the courthouse steps and cried, saying, ‘I’m finally a citizen.’

“These are the stories we need to share with the youth of today,” Middlebrook said.

Johnson City Press Article

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MILLIGAN COLLEGE is a Christian liberal arts college in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The college offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan College, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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