Recently, I attended a hockey game with son-in-laws at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. During the game, my mind drifted back to another game, many years ago when I attended a game with best friend, Mert Sprunger. We were sitting at that time in Section 6 and, as was the custom of the time, Mert was listening to the game on his transistor radio along with watching the game on the ice.

Suddenly, he burst out and said, “James, Martin Luther King was just assassinated!”

It was April 4, 1968, a date that was to become yet another immortal date in a time that saw the assassinations of the likes of President John Kennedy and Presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy.

Admittedly, I have always had deep admiration for Dr. King and his efforts to attempt to bring together racial justice, along with others in our land who have made the same attempts over the years.

Several years ago, I made several trips to Florida to assist some close friends who were going through some very difficult times. During that time, I often visited Martin Luther King shrines along the way.

One of those stops was in Birmingham where I spent an entire morning in downtown reading plaques by monuments recounting the riots if the ’60’s. The one that jerked at me the most was the one by the 16th Street Baptist Church where a bomb was set off during church, killing four young girls. Since our daughters were about the same age at the time that those girls were when they were killed, my heart stabbed with hurt of how those girls’ parents must have felt on that dreadful Sunday morning, real people with real family love in spite of skin color.

On another afternoon, in Atlanta, I spent the entire afternoon visiting Dr. King’s grave, the house where he was born, the Ebeneezer Baptist, where I sat and listened to several portions of some of his powerful sermons and I spent more time reading through a museum in his honor.

I especially remembered the afternoon when I witnessed live in television, his powerful, “I have a dream,” speech in Washington on a hot afternoon.

I am still moved to chills by his words that day, “When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

Perhaps one of his quotes that has affected my life the most is, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”