AT&T’s David Huntley on Living the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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(Originally published on ATT.com)

I was asked to share my thoughts on the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death as part of AT&T 28 Days – History By Us campaign. Here they are.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We’ve all heard the tragedy of Dr. King’s murder from an assassin’s bullet at a Tennessee hotel in 1968. But to fully appreciate its impact, you must understand the time.

David Huntley, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Compliance Officer at AT&T

While the fight for full social, economic and legal equality continues to this day, the environment in Dr. King’s day was far different. The struggle and threat more immediate. Despite this, Dr. King and others chose to carry the mantle of freedom during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. As one of the movement’s chief architects, Dr. King inspired us ALL to believe in a better future for ALL. By 1968, African Americans had gained substantial legal achievements, including the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968.

Imagine the hope as folks from all backgrounds banded together to achieve and celebrate these and other milestones.

Now imagine the overwhelming sense of intense pain when news broke that a gunman had murdered Dr. King.

I was 9-years-old the day Dr. King was assassinated. Like all children that age, I wasn’t yet fully aware of the environment in which I lived. All I knew was that when my brother was my age, he couldn’t visit Playland Park, an amusement park in our native San Antonio.

But on that day, my innocence was lost. I witnessed the people closest to me react in a way completely foreign to me.

Upon hearing the news of Dr. King’s murder, my mother dropped to her knees in the kitchen, her fervent prayers struggling to break free of her aching sobs. My father, a man known for his peaceful sensibilities, sat in a silent rage. The air around him burning. On that fateful day in 1968, we didn’t just lose an icon. We, along with the world, lost a family member.

Dr. King’s assassination left us all to ponder some very difficult questions. What now? What did this mean for our future? Was all hope lost? Did the dream die along with him?

The answer was a simple, but emphatic, “No.”

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For my family and so many others, that hopelessness was replaced with a purposeful resolve. Dr. King’s death would not be – and never would be – in vain. We accepted that it was on each of us to use, defend and develop the rights Dr. King had died fighting for. It’s a gift and responsibility we must value and apply every single day.

We’ve spent 50 years trying to make sense of Dr. King’s murder. Over that time, America has made incredible progress in the fight for equal rights. But there is still much more to be done.

To understand where we’re going, we must understand where we’ve been. So, as we celebrate Black History Month, I ask that we remember not only Dr. King’s death, but his work, legacy and the values he and others stood for.

Remember the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Remember the March on Washington. Remember Selma. Remember all the struggles that banded us together to overcome what seemed to be insurmountable.

Let’s never forget. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s keep working together. Let’s not go back to that time!

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