One of Dallas' Last Living Links to Martin Luther King Carries on Torch of Nonviolence and Justice

Peter Johnson stared out the plane’s window and watched the fires burning below in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital convulsed by riots, the anger below reflecting the turmoil inside himself.It was April 4, 1968. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, and Johnson had taken the first flight home to Louisiana.Johnson had worked for King all over the South on voter drives since he was a college student. He had followed the civil rights leader on the bloody 1965 protest march through Alabama, from Selma to Montgomery. He'd met several casualties of that march, including Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of five from Detroit, shot and killed by the Ku Klux Klan while driving marchers home.Johnson had come close to getting killed himself. In Birmingham, police attacked him and other marchers with fire hoses blasting at levels high enough to strip bark off a tree. Just 23, his body carried scars from other run-ins with police or angry mobs.Sitting in the plane, he worried about the safety of his family and his friends at Southern University, the historically black college in Baton Rouge.He worried about himself. Without King, where would he be?For Johnson, devoted to King’s principle of nonviolence, the days and weeks ahead would be a test like no other. He could give in to the rage all around him. Or do what his parents wanted. Walk away. Get a degree. Get married. Settle down.Whatever decision he made would set the course of the rest of his life.  Continue reading...

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