Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an accomplished theologian, was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers. He preached with power from the pulpit and turned to the Black church throughout the Civil Rights Movement:
- Maternal great-grandfather, Willis Williams, was “a slavery time preacher” in Greene County, Ga. in the mid-1800s.
- Maternal grandfather, Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, was pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Auburn, Ga.
- Father, Rev. Martin Luther King. Sr., became pastor of Ebenezer when Rev. Williams died in 1931.
- Entered Morehouse College in 1944; majored in sociology and had an interest in law and medicine.
- Influenced by Morehouse President Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, a noted minister, educator and activist, who encouraged him to view Christianity as a force for progressive social change.
- Ordained his final year at Morehouse and graduated with a B.A. in Sociology; named assistant pastor of his father’s church.
- Enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Penn. and earned Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951.
- Earned PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston University in 1955.
- Became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. in 1954 while working on his dissertation.
- Led his congregation and the community during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56.
- Co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 to harness the moral authority and organizing power of Black churches.
- Returned to Atlanta in 1960 to become co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
- Worked closely with other activist-ministers, including Revs. Ralph David Abernathy, Hosea Williams, Fred Shuttlesworth, Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young.