Martin Luther King Jr's NC connections - | WBTV Charlotte

Martin Luther King Jr's NC connections

(Source: WBTV/File) (Source: WBTV/File)

His iconic image has been part of the Center City landscape for more than three decades. The Martin Luther King Jr. statue is seen by thousands of drivers every day near the heavily-traveled intersection of Third and McDowell Streets.

It's been here since the early 1980s, but Dr. King's impact in the Carolinas was felt long before that.

Prior to the historic March on Washington and years before the now famous demonstration from Selma to Montgomery, Dr. King's presence started his visits to the Tar Heel state.

The archives from Bennett College showcase a 1958 visit to the Greensboro campus.

Years before, he would become friends with Jean Brayboy of Charlotte while he attended Boston College.

"Within our group, we always thought he would do something special. We really did," Brayboy said.

When Charlotte was still a two-newspaper town in the 60s, Dr. King's visits were covered regularly. One piece of film was found in the WBTV archives.

"I don't decide what is right or wrong by going around taking a Gallup poll of what people think, ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus," King told a Charlotte audience.

He would take the stage at the Grady Cole Center, and visit Johnson C. Smith University. That's where he was alongside a Charlotte Civil Rights activist who spoke to him hours before he was assassinated.

"I talked to him about 12:30, one o'clock that day. Six o'clock that afternoon he was dead,” Reginald Hawkins told WBTV several years ago.

In the special papers collection at UNC Charlotte, there is a telegram from Dr. King to Reginald Hawkins canceling his trip here and deciding to stay in Memphis to work with striking sanitation workers.

According to the late Reginald Hawkins, it was among the last pieces of correspondence King would ever send out.

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