As the nation observes Martin Luther King Day, Gayle pays tribute to the civil rights leader with his son, Martin Luther King III. Gayle talks to Martin about his personal memories of his father and how he is working to continue Dr. King's legacy.
Martin, now 49, was 10 years old when his father was assassinated at the age of 39. Growing up, Martin witnessed his father at work in the public sphere—whether in meetings or giving speeches—and regarded him as a man who "always found a way to address everyone who came within his presence."
To Martin and his siblings, however, Dr. King was "just dad." "The fun part for us was going to places like the YMCA once a week where he would get his exercise, and he taught us how to swim, or from time to time, tossing the football in the front yard," he says.
This year, Martin says he will be observing the Dr. King holiday with sadness because he will also be remembering his mother, Coretta Scott King, who passed away nearly one year ago. "She's sorely missed because this is the very first [Martin Luther King Day] that we have not been with her," he says.
Although Martin has followed in his father's footsteps—having been actively involved in social issues and civil rights throughout his own life—he says he doesn't feel pressure to live up to Dr. King's legacy.
"I'm blessed because Mom taught us to be our best selves," Martin says. "If I woke up trying to fulfill the shoes of my father, I would flunk miserably every day. There will never be another Martin Luther King Jr., so I don't even try to become him. I try to be the best 'Martin' that I can exhibit and try to provide the kind of leadership that I hope my mom and father would be proud of."
Last year, Martin created an organization called Realizing the Dream, whose threefold mission focuses on nonviolent conflict resolution training, targeted youth leadership training, and community and economic development. He says eradicating poverty in America is his primary goal today. "It is something that we must continue to build coalitions to work on with our elected officials, our religious leaders and our business leaders," he says.