The legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is a testament of hope. Martin Luther King Jr. Day recognizes the transcending spirit of the civil rights leader distinguished in history.
An assassin’s bullet ended his life on April 4,1968, as he stood on the second-floor balcony of a Memphis motel. King had traveled to Memphis to lead a protest march in unity with striking garbage workers. James Earl Ray was convicted of murdering King in 1969 after he entered a guilty plea.
Congress passed Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday in 1983. President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929. The holiday is celebrated each year on the third Monday of January.
Myron Pope said he give much thought to the professional changes that have occurred in his career. In 2013, Pope was named the University of Central Oklahoma’s vice president of student affairs after serving as vice president of enrollment management.
“We have come a long way, as evidenced by my being able to serve in this role at an institution like UCO. I am very fortunate,” said Pope, reflecting on the half-century that haspassed since the March on Washington in 1963.
“However, there is a belief that the playing field is level and that everyone has ample opportunities to be successful,” Pope said. “I was fortunate to have mentors who guided my way because they saw something in me.”
Many young men and women do not have that intervention to help them over life’s challenges, he said. Pope knows many dedicated hard workers who have not had equal opportunities to be successful, he said.
“Those are the people that even though we have come so far, we still have a long way to go,” Pope said.
His mother at one time did not have the same privilege that Pope has today. Separate water fountains, rest rooms, schools, cemeteries and eating establishments were once woven into segregation laws across the nation.
The struggle for equality during the Civil Rights movement and led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court in 1967 ruled against all laws prohibiting interracial marriages. Fair housing for minorities became a federal law in 1968.
At 42, Pope was born after the March on Washington, where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet it has always had a profound presence in his life.
Pope went to school at the University of Alabama just one generation after the 1963 incident when former Gov. George Wallace stood in front of the school door to block Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, both black, from registering as students there.
Wallace had stoked the fire of prejudice during his gubernatorial run with the words, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
President John F. Kennedy federalized the National Guard to force Wallace to step away from the door. As a student, Pope walked past the Foster Auditorium almost daily as he walked to class with the frequent reminder of what had occurred there 51 years ago.
Hood would talk about starting the journey at Alabama because of the leadership of Dr. King.
“I believe that to much is given, much is expected,” Pope said. “For that reason, I believe that those who have achieved should constantly be looking back to help those who have not achieved the equality that was part of the reason behind the March on Washington 51 years ago.”
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