ATLANTA (AP) — The voice of Martin Luther King Sr., the same melodic tenor as his murdered son, echoed through Madison Square Garden, announcing his friend and fellow Georgian president calmed down the raucous Democrats who nominated for
“Surely the Lord sent Jimmy Carter to come out and put America back where it belongs,” said the respected black pastor as the candidate smiled behind him. “I am with him.
Afterwards, Mr. Carter held hands with Coretta Scott King, met eyes with the widowed first lady of the civil rights movement, and shared a moment with her children watching.
For the Kings, the closing of the 1976 tournament was a confirmation of their continued influence and realism, eight years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. For Carter, this marked an evolution as a white politician from the Old Confederacy. As a local leader and state senator who aspired to greater heights, he largely avoided controversial positions during the Civil Rights Movement. During his stay in Atlanta, he never met the movement’s leader.
“Carter himself never committed a racist act. But he did not participate,” said biographer Jonathan Alter. “And the King was right there.”
But the alliance Mr. Carter later forged with the King family survived until Mr. Carter grew to become a governor, president and a global humanitarian championing racial equality and human rights.
“He was one of the few presidents with a pure heart who truly championed the black community,” said Reverend Bernice King, who heads the King Center, which his mother founded.
Carter, now 98, is in hospice care in Plains, Georgia. King was only 39 when he was shot in 1968, when he should have been 94.
Certainly, Martin Luther King would have expanded his legacy even more if he lived longer – after the victory of the civil rights movement for black Americans, he turned his focus to challenging Western militarism and greedy capitalism. moved — and there’s no way of knowing what kind of relationship Dr. King had with Carter. When Georgia Democrats take high office.
In effect, Carter played a pivotal role in memorializing Dr. King as an American icon, while also using the most prominent decades of public life to reflect Mr. King’s values and often his rhetoric. used for
Carter opened up government contracts to black-owned businesses and appointed a record number of black citizens to executive and judicial posts. He has historically directed more public funding to black universities and opposed tax cuts for discriminatory private schools. He echoed Martin Luther King’s peace stance and expressed pride in not starting a firefight long after he took office.
Carter, citing many of the same theologians that King cited in his practice of nonviolent resistance, would join King as a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2002. As a former president, Carter followed up with Dr. King’s subsequent economic observations, declaring that the United States was an oligarchy rather than a fully functioning democracy because of wealth inequality and money in politics.
Bernice King told The Associated Press that the record shows Carter to be a “courageous” and “principled” person who builds on his father’s achievements while developing “genuine” relationships with his mother and grandfather. said to have made it firm.
Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter welcomed the royal couple to the White House and presented Coretta with her husband’s posthumous Medal of Freedom, making her one of the few black Americans to receive the country’s highest civilian honor at the time. I was alone. Carter helped establish the government’s birthday celebrations and enabled the establishment of federal historic sites, including King’s birthplace, burial site, and Ebenezer Baptist Church of the King family.
The former president also served as a private mediator for Dr. King’s children, helping them settle their parents’ long-running property disputes. Bernice King said he was “appreciative of his efforts” in putting an end to the highly publicized fight.
The young king, who was just five years old when his father was murdered, said he “can’t be sure” when the family friendship began. After Carter became governor of Georgia in 1971, she believes her mother made her first appeal.
“My mother was a leader who made sure I connected with people who I felt could help me with the work I was doing to carry on my father’s legacy,” King said.
It wasn’t clear that Mr. Carter could be such a partner until he took the statewide office.
At the height of the civil rights movement, Carter served as a one-term state senator when Martin Luther King, Jr. worked with President Lyndon Johnson on the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Although he supported Mr Johnson’s 1964 election and never aligned with his racist colleagues in Atlanta, Mr Carter spoke out in support of federal law during two of his gubernatorial campaigns. It didn’t, and it didn’t show up in Ebenezer, just a few blocks from the Georgia State Capitol. .
Carter did not attend the funeral when Dr. King was assassinated. In 1970, as a conservative Democrat, he won the gubernatorial election, avoiding explicit mention of race and assuring voters that he would prioritize “local control” over federal intervention.
Alter called it a “cryptoword campaign.”
And Carter, 46, issued a surprise proclamation at his inauguration: “The era of racism is over.”
Bernice King assessed his declaration as “very profound for its time”.
Within a few years, Carter stood with the King family at the Georgia State Capitol while Coretta unveiled a portrait of the King, while members of the Ku Klux Klan protested outside.
King Sr. had no problem coordinating Carter’s previous ruse before taking the governor’s seat.
“He was never characterized as a ‘cracker’ Congressman, as many rural politicians have been,” wrote the elderly Martin Luther King in his autobiography.
He said Carter’s “willingness to meet people and work long hours on issues and needs” has “earned him an extraordinary reputation” among black voters.
Such attention paved the way for Democrats, as expanded suffrage finally gave black voters more flexibility in exercising political power. Every Democratic president since then has relied on strong black support to win nominations and general elections. President Joe Biden has recognized this dynamic and urged the National Party to nominate more diverse states, including Georgia, early in the nomination process.
Political speculation aside, Bernice King said her grandfather and Carter share a “true blood relationship” as two Baptists who grew up in a small town in Georgia. Senior King once described their conversation as “a conversation between rednecks”.
Mr. Carter visited Mr. King in person at the beginning of the presidential campaign and asked for his endorsement. King, who was never a party supporter, initially told Carter that he would only support the White House run if Republican Vice President Nelson Rockefeller did not run again. King’s reasoning: Carter was a hit, but civil rights liberal Rockefeller was already a strong man.
When it became clear in 1976 that Rockefeller would not run for President Gerald Ford’s running mate, King backed Carter. This was an invaluable lesson for white Southern governors of the same generation as racist George Wallace of Alabama and Lester Maddox of Georgia.
Dr. King rallied Carter’s support to black churches across the country and to a mostly white national press conference, especially after Carter’s advocacy of “ethnic purity” in the American neighborhood disrupted debate on federal housing policy. guaranteed.
Carter tried to organize his remarks with more explanation and said he was “very strongly and vigorously opposed” to “exclusion of family members on the grounds of race or ethnic background,” but still “I think it’s good to maintain homogeneity within the region,” he said. established as such. ”
Mr. Carter eventually apologized.
Bernice King said her grandfather viewed Carter’s choice of words as an “innocent mistake” and urged journalists and voters to look at Carter’s values and full record.
For the first half of Carter’s long life, “he had to live in a society, a culture where, as a white man, he was expected to hate blacks and look at them with great humiliation,” said Bernice King. . Considering his life as a whole, “I think he’s done it very well,” she said.
Along the way, Carter learned that King’s brothers and cousins had always understood him and his “boisterous” voice.
“You paid attention when Grandpa opened his mouth,” said Bernice King.
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