‘Daddy King: An Autobiography’ With Isaac Newton Farris Jr. – Part II

May 3, 2017

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. concludes his conversation with Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., former CEO at the King Center, grandson of Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and nephew of Dr. King Jr.

In this new foreword to the book, King, Sr.’s grandson Isaac Newton Farris, Jr. shares what "Daddy King" meant to him as a family member, and discusses the far-reaching legacy of King, Sr.’s activism for civil rights and racial justice. 

From coming of age under poverty and the looming threat of racial violence to preaching from the Ebenezer Baptist Church pulpit for 40 years, King, Sr., candidly reveals his life inside the civil rights movement, illustrating the profound influence he had on his son.

Born in 1899 to a family of sharecroppers in Stockbridge, Georgia, Martin Luther King, Sr., came of age under the looming threat of violence at the hands of white landowners. Growing up, he watched as his family was crushed by the weight of poverty and racism, and he resolved to escape to Atlanta to answer the calling to become a preacher. Before he engaged in acts of political dissent and stepped to the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, King Sr. strove to earn high school and college diplomas while working double shifts as a truck driver, and fought to win the heart of his future wife, Alberta “Bunch” Williams.

Long before the historic 1963 March on Washington, Martin King, Jr., saw his father lead a march on Atlanta City Hall to protest separate water fountains for black and white citizens. This bold act in the late 1930s was as provocative and a million times more life threatening than any march in the nation’s capital would ever be. King, Sr., led the successful protest and legal fight to equalize the pay of black and white teachers in Atlanta public schools. This would cause the Atlanta Board of Education to deny his daughter, Dr. Christine King Farris, a Spelman graduate and a holder of two master degrees from Columbia University, employment as a teacher until the intervention of then Mayor William B. Hartsfield.

Originally published in 1980, this poignant memoir chronicles the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. Here, King Sr. recalls the joys and struggles of his journey: the pain of leaving his mother, father, and siblings on the farm; the triumph of winning voting rights for blacks in Atlanta; and the feelings of fatherly pride and anxiety as he watched his son put himself in danger at the forefront of the movement. 

There are two men I am supposed to hate. One is a white man, the other is black, and both are serving time for having committed murder. James Earl Ray is a prisoner in Tennessee, charged with killing my son. Marcus Chenault was institutionalized as deranged after shooting my wife to death. I don’t hate either one. There is no time for that, and no reason, either. Nothing that a man does takes him lower than when he allows himself to fall so far as to hate anyone.