SARASOTA - The Martin Luther King celebration began Monday morning in Sarasota as it has for 30 years, with a memorial breakfast in Newtown. And this year, for the first time, it was held in the newly remodeled Booker High School.
This holiday is very close to the heart of ABC 7’s Linda Carson. Back in the 60's as a young reporter in Atlanta, she covered Dr. King and the civil rights movement. She covered his marches, his demonstrations, even his sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church the church King's family had pastored for 80 years.
When Coretta Scott King marched with her husband, Linda followed. When Dr. King went to jail, Linda waited with her at her home.
And then, when she was a reporter in Kansas City in 1986 -- the year Dr. King's birthday became a national holiday -- Mrs. King invited Linda to come back and spend that day with her, sit down, and talk about her husband and his work.
Linda wondered Mrs. King explained to their four children that daddy was in jail. “They thought of jail going as a badge of honor, rather than a disgrace," said Mrs. King.
Those were dangerous days for all those involved in the movement. Andrew Young, who went on to become a U.N. ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta, was one of Dr. King's right hand men. "You had to be afraid for your life if you were black and alone in the south, and I think we basically were trying to get certain, minimum human rights."
Linda was in her newsroom when the news came that Dr. King had been shot. And she went with the Atlanta mayor to Mrs. King's home to break the news to her. Later, she was one of the many reporters jammed outside the church at Dr. King’s funeral.
After her husband's death, Coretta Scott King became the heart, the public symbol, of the civil rights movement. "I've always had the sense of mission. I don't know why I do, therefore I have this strong need to serve and be involved."
And she continued to be involved until her death in 2006.
And on this historic day, as Barack Obama begins his second term as president, Linda can't help but remember Mrs. King's answer to a question she asked her in 1986: Wouldn't you love to be able to tell your husband about what has happened? To talk to him for 5 minutes and tell him how it's all turned out? Would he be disappointed or would he be pleased? “I think he would be very pleased about some aspects of it, and I suspect that he really knows."
And there was a wonderful surprise for Linda Monday morning, as the MLK Celebration Committee gave her an award for community service. ABC 7 also received an award, as did Dr. Ed James, executive producer of ABC 7's Black Almanac.