As we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us pause to reflect on who he was and why his struggle to obtain civil rights for black Americans was necessary.
First, Dr. King was a Republican until the day he died because he knew that the Republican Party, from its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party, championed freedom and civil rights for blacks. For details on the history of civil rights, see the NBRA Civil Rights Newsletter posted on the NBRA's website.
Second, the nemesis of Dr. King's valiant and historic campaign to end discrimination and gain equality for blacks was the Democratic Party, the party of slavery, segregation and the Ku Klux Klan. Led by the former Senator and Klansman Robert Byrd, Democrats launched a despicable crusade to smear and undermine Dr. King. This relentless disparagement of Dr. King resulted in his being physically assaulted and ultimately to his tragic death.
When Dr. King left Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1968 after riots broke out where a teenager was killed, Byrd called Dr. King a "trouble-maker" who starts trouble, but runs like a coward after trouble is ignited. A few weeks later, Dr. King returned to Memphis and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Prior to his death, Democrats bombed Dr. King's home several times. The scurrilous efforts by the Democrats to harm Dr. King included spreading rumors that he was a Communist and accusing him of being a womanizer and a plagiarist.
An egregious act against Dr. King occurred on October 10, 1963. Democrat President John F. Kennedy authorized his brother, Democrat Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to wiretap Dr. King's telephone using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Wiretaps were placed by the FBI on Dr. King's telephones in his home and office. The FBI also bugged Dr. King's hotel rooms when he traveled around the country.
The trigger for this unsavory wiretapping was apparently Dr. Kings' criticism of President Kennedy for ignoring civil rights issues, according to the author David Garrow in his book, "Bearing the Cross". As was pointed out in the book by Wayne Perryman "Whites, Blacks and Racist Democrats", Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil Rights Act while he was a senator. After Kennedy became president, he was opposed to the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King.
The justification given by the Kennedy Administration publicly for wiretapping Dr. King was that two of Dr. King's associates, including David Levinson, had ended their association with the Communist Party in order to work undercover and influence Dr. King. However, after years of continuous and extensive wiretapping, the FBI found no direct links of Dr. King to the Communist Party.
Kennedy's disdain for blacks further manifested itself when the King family sought help with getting Dr. King out of a Birmingham jail. Kennedy's civil rights advisor, Harris Wofford who was a personal friend of Dr. King, made a telephone call on behalf of Kennedy without Kennedy's knowledge. That call resulted in Dr. King's release. Kennedy was angry about the call because he feared he would lose the Southern vote. History shows, though, that the call by Wofford eventually worked in Kennedy's favor and is the primary reason so many blacks today wrongly venerate Kennedy.
The unrelenting efforts by Democrats to tarnish Dr. King's reputation continued for years after his death. To his credit, Republican President Ronald Reagan ignored the Democrats' smear campaign and made Dr. King's birthday a holiday.
Today, while professing to revere Dr. King, Democrats are still attempting to sully his image by claiming that he was a socialist. In reality, Dr. King was a Christian, guided by his faith and Republican Party principles as he struggled to gain equality for blacks. He did not embrace the type of socialist agenda that is promoted by the Democratic Party today, which includes fostering dependency on government handouts that trap blacks in generational poverty.
NBRA Chairman Frances Rice is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, a lawyer and chairman of the National Black Republican Association.