United Methodists honor Dr. King

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (from left), Joseph E. Lowery, Vice President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Wyatt Tee Walker, Executive Director, meet at First African Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, Sept. 25, 1963, for the SCLC convention. ~ photo by Carl Lynn, Richland Times-Dispatch.

On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Those who walked with him remember.

KATHY L. GILBERT
United Methodist News Service

The Rev. Woodie W. White was in Detroit. The Rev. Melvin Talbert was in Los Angeles. The Rev. Gil Caldwell was in Chicago. And Clara Ester was in the parking lot of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

All of these United Methodists leaders walked with King while he was alive and many more are inspired by his life today.

Bishop Woodie W. White

The Rev. Woodie White was a United Methodist pastor appointed to urban ministry in the Detroit Conference in 1967 just as the riots broke out.

“I was literally moving into my new residence that Sunday,” he said. He had started a program called Bridges, which was his attempt to bridge the gap between black inner-city Detroit and white suburban Detroit.

“I was devastated and I was alone,” he said. He was unsure what to do but decided to continue to the church where he preached his prepared sermon.

“When I got there I quickly picked up the people at the church had not heard the news. I was in a quandary, I was filled with all these emotions — bitterness, sadness. I closed by announcing Dr. King had been assassinated,” he said.

The congregation was also devastated and tried to console me, he said. “All of the emotions I had been holding and unable to express, let loose.”

The next day the pastor called and told White the church had taken up a collection to pay for him to travel to King’s funeral.

“It was a time of many emotions, but mostly there was a sense of community. I did not get bitter — as I was about to become — because I was surrounded by so much love and support. I remember that time very vividly.”

White was elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church in 1984. He retired in 2004 and now teaches at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

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