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Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

By Heather Sawaski

WAUSAU (WAOW) -- The resurrection of Jesus isn't the only milestone people are remembered Sunday. April 4th also marked the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. The life of one of the country's most notable civil rights leader ended 42 years ago, but not before leaving his mark here in Wausau.

"I want to talk today on the subject of our future of integration."

Those were words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a Wausau gathering more than 40 years ago. Retired UW-Marathon County history professor Jim Lorence was there May 12th, 1967.

"One of the things you remember as much as anything else is his ability to hold the attention of an audience," he recalled.

 Lorence was one of more than a thousand people to pack into the East Gate Hall in Marathon Park to hear King speak the message of inequality in our country.

"By that time he had come North and discovered that there was an element of racism in the North as well as in the South," Lorence said. "It took different forms in the North."

But Lorence says King also dug deeper. It was one of his first speeches against the war in Vietnam.

"Those of us who were involved in the anti-war movement at the time were thrilled when he made such a strong statement about the connection between the inability to fund the war on poverty and the war in Southeast Asia," Lorence explained.

The professor believes it was a message the country needed to hear. One of eventual peace and happiness, but more importantly, one of hope.

Lorence says since King's death, the country has taken dramatic steps towards equality, but racism is by no means gone. However, he believes the recent election of our first African American president is an indicator that many attitudes have begun to change.

Online Reporter: Heather Sawaski

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