Nation Honors King as Family’s Feud With Park Service Continues
ATLANTA (AP) _ The nation remembered Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday amid a feud between his family and the National Park Service over who will preserve his memory and how.
At Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was pastor, Dexter Scott King vowed to continue his father’s work through economic opportunity, calling for a $10 billion investment in the black community.
``My father had a dream, I too have a dream,″ the 33-year-old said in a Martin Luther King Day address. ``My father delivered to his generation political freedom. I would like to deliver to my generation economic freedom.″
More than 400 people packed the church, next door to the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the crypt that holds the body of the civil rights leader, who would have been 66 on Sunday.
The park service wants to build a museum and visitors center near the King Center. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, and children want to create their own interactive museum.
The dispute prompted the family to halt park service tours of King’s birthplace. The service now shepherds tours past the home and presents a slide show at its own facility about a block away. The sides are to meet Saturday and discuss the disagreement.
The feud cropped up Monday in Dexter King’s church speech, and in appearances on CNN and NBC by King and Troy Lissimore, the park service’s superintendent of the King Historic Site.
Lissimore said he thinks the dispute could be worked out. But King, now president of the King Center, said the park service has falsely accused the family of trying to profit from his father’s memory.
``Myself and my family have been accused of protecting our legacy, the King legacy,″ King said during the service. ``Yet we did not wake up one morning and decide to start a company called Martin Luther King Jr. Inc.″
Dignitaries from around the world, including House minority leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri and South African Ambassador Franklyn Sonn, attended the three-hour service.
Earlier, the family placed a wreath in front of the tomb as the youngest child, the Rev. Bernice King, offered a prayer.
Up to 700 marchers walked through downtown Memphis, Tenn., stopping at the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, where King was assassinated by a sniper on April 4, 1968.
Shirley McKissick brought her sons Micah, 9, and Deandre, 10. ``I try to teach them that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died for the justice of us all,″ she said. ``To help the black as well as the white.″
King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, said in Dallas that he hesitates to call the holiday a day of celebration.
``Somehow we perhaps have gotten caught in a holding pattern and many of us think that we are free,″ King, 36, told the crowd of about 1,000 at a breakfast.
He said America’s social ills, including drug abuse and urban blight, demonstrate that ``we have not arrived, so we cannot celebrate yet.″
_ In Denver, President Clinton addressed a crowd of more than 20,000 at a park as part of a daylong celebration that featured a two-mile parade. ``Even as he marched all across this land and took that vast throng to Washington, D.C., he knew in the end ... that what was in the hearts and minds of the average American citizen was even more important,″ Clinton said.
_ In Boston, about 2,000 people attended a breakfast in King’s honor, where 19-year-old Tito Jackman said his generation has gone astray. ``We’ve gone off on tangents instead of taking up the baton and running the next leg,″ said Jackman, a student at the University of New Hampshire.
_ In New Hampshire, the only state that has not fully adopted the federal King holiday, about 25 teen-agers staked out the sidewalk at the Statehouse in Concord in a vigil scheduled to last from midnight Sunday to midnight Monday.
``We feel he was an important enough person in the civil rights movement that he deserved to be recognized,″ Eliot Lothrop said. ``The state isn’t giving him enough recognition.″
After rejecting King holiday bills for years, the state made Civil Rights Day a holiday in 1991. Gov. Steve Merrill has added King’s name by proclamation each of the three years he has been in office.