Forty Years: Remembering MLK Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr., second right, and SCLC aides Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson Jr., from left, and Ralph Abernathy return to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to strategize for the second Sanitation Worker's march led by King in this April 3, 1968 file photo. King was shot dead on the balcony April 4, 1968. AP Photo/File

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

Forty years. The night before Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated, he spoke of being on the mountain top; of seeing to the other side. He was speaking, of course, in a metaphor that harkened up the image of Mosses. Mosses, of course, was not granted access to the promised land.

The 39-year-old peace activist and civil rights leader would not see his dreams fulfilled either. Jesse Jackson, who was on the balcony with King when he was shot, told me King would have been pleased by the fact that a black man and a woman are vying for a presidential nomination.

But, that the poverty and economic disparity that King rallied against are still with us. And King's son, Martin the third, reminded me this morning that his father courageously spoke out against the Vietnam War, long before the chorus of public opinion was on his side.

King had vision and courage. He was a latter day founding father. For without him, our promise would never be fulfilled.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.
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