1/16/12 - michael luther king changes his name

In today's encore excerpt - Mike King changes his name. Born Michael Luther King (1899 - 1984), he had lifted himself up from extreme poverty and a complete lack of schooling to lead Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and to take it from the brink of financial ruin to prosperity—in the bleak middle of the Depression.  His eldest son, Michael Luther King Jr., who we now remember as Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968), was then known as 'M.L.' or 'Little Mike'. The change was intended to honor Martin Luther (1483 - 1546), the great German founder of the "protestant" reformation of Christianity in the 1500s—and thus elevate Mike and his son through that association:

"He was simply Mike King—always shaking hands, encouraging and demanding, making himself the center of attention in any room, full of claims about the past and promises for the future. The key to his multiple roles and identities was always Ebenezer Church. ...

"He could safely say that he rescued Ebenezer Baptist Church from bankruptcy within his first few months as pastor. Membership increased geometrically from two hundred toward a Depression peak of four thousand. His gamble paid off so handsomely that the church made him the highest-paid Negro minister in Atlanta at the end of his first year. ... [He] asked his membership to send him on a summer-long tour of Europe, Africa, and the Holy Land. ... Reverend King's triumphant homecoming in late August 1934 was announced to Negro Atlanta in a banner headline in the Daily World: 'Reverend King is Royally Welcomed on Return from Europe.' ...

"This was King's moment, the watershed of his life, and he honored the occasion by changing his name from Michael to Martin, becoming Martin Luther King. For consistency, he also changed the name of his older son to Martin Luther King, Jr. The change of name was one of the most important events in the younger King's early life ..."


Taylor Branch


Parting the Waters: America in the King Years


Simon & Schuster Paperbacks


Copyright 1988 by Taylor Branch


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