Perhaps he might have been able to imagine it – although those who knew him have thought it unlikely – but nearly 40 years after his assassination, Americans of all walks of life are still setting aside time to remember his birthday.
Had he lived, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be 78 years old on this day, which is being marked by ceremonies that began last week and continue through what has been a federal holiday for over twenty years.
In Boston, Gov. Deval Patrick - the first black governor of Massachusetts, who took office only a few days ago – will be the keynote speaker at Monday's Martin Luther King Day ceremonies at Faneuil Hall, one of the nation's best known colonial landmarks, and at the United Union Methodist Church.
In New York on Sunday, some politics mixed in with the King Day observances as Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards addressed about 1,200 parishioners at Riverside Church, a multiracial, politically active Manhattan congregation where King delivered his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech on April 4, 1967.
Edwards called on Americans to resist President Bush's planned troop escalation in Iraq, echoing King's plea 40 years ago to end the Vietnam War. Edwards spoke from the same wooden pulpit King used and was introduced by one of King's sons, Martin Luther King III.
This year's King commemorative ceremonies are the first since the death of Coretta Scott King, who died Jan. 31, 2006, at age 78 of complications from ovarian cancer and after suffering a stroke five months earlier.
Those who worked side by side with the family in the civil rights movement have another loved one to remember this year: Dora McDonald, King's secretary first at Ebenezer Baptist and later at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
McDonald, who was 81, died Saturday in Atlanta of complications from cancer at Emory Crawford Long Hospital.
In a 1989 interview, McDonald described her work with King as "a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job," adding that "there was never a time - and I can say this in all truthfulness, from the time I went to work for him until his death - that I regretted what I was doing or where I was at that moment."
Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta – where Dr. King preached for years – the legacy of the Kings was recalled by family and others as they gathered to mark the day.
The Kings' oldest daughter, Yolanda King, spoke to the crowd about the past and the future – with a reminder that America has not yet attained peace and racial equality.
"We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other," said Yolanda, who is 51, urging those who honor the Kings' work to question their own beliefs on prejudice and be a personal force for peace and love.
1 / 2
© 2007 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.