#RespectYourElders: Earlier this month, thousands of people gathered in Memphis, Tennessee to honor the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death on April 4, 1968. The crowd included Andrew Young, a former U.S. Congressman and Atlanta mayor who was with King the night he died. He continues to speak out about civil rights, and gave a speech at the gathering in Memphis.
Young (born 1932) is best known for his career as a pastor, politician and activist during the Civil Rights Movement, and for the close relationship and similar ideals he shared with King.
Young began his career as pastor, which led to him becoming executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. There, he strategized many of King’s most well-known Civil Rights Campaigns including in Birmingham, St. Augustine and Selma. As an activist, he also encouraged African-Americans to vote in Alabama, and was in favor of nonviolent resistance as a tactic for pushing for social change.
After King’s death in 1968, Young brought his passion for civil rights to national and state politics. He first was a U.S. Congressman representing Georgia between 1973 and 1977. Then, he became the first black United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979. He then ran for mayor of Atlanta, and held the position for eight years between 1982 and 1990. As mayor, he expanded programs for including minority and female-owned businesses in city contracts. A task force under his leadership also established the Dream Jamboree, which tripled college scholarships given to Atlanta public school graduates.
In recent years, Young has continued to be active in and share his opinions on modern civil rights movements. In 2003, he founded the Andrew Young Foundation, an organization meant to support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the U.S., Africa and the Caribbean. He’s also appeared on television programs like “The Colbert Report” in 2008 to discuss the presidential election of Barack Obama.
Young continues to address the influence of his friend and confidante, King. He gave the keynote address at Vanderbilt University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Day about his experiences in Selma, what it was like traveling with King and advice for the next generation of leaders. At the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local Union 1733 this past April, Young spoke about King’s ongoing legacy.
“Africans say, ‘You ain’t dead ’til the people stop calling your name,'” he said. “That bullet only released his spirit and it released his spirit all over the world.”
Read more about the tribute to King in Memphis earlier this month in the L.A. Times.