'Noble example': A half century ago, MLK found hope for America in the islands

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The world is marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination Wednesday.

And in Hawaii, many are noting Dr. King's special connections to the Aloha State.

MLK's visit to Oahu 

In September 1959, Dr. King made his first known visit to Hawaii to take part in statehood celebrations.

During the visit, Dr. King stood before the very first special session at the state Legislature and thanked the people of Hawaii for offering the nation "a noble example" of progress "in the area of racial harmony and justice."

"I come to you with a great deal of appreciation and great feeling of appreciation, I should say, for what has been accomplished in this beautiful setting and in this beautiful state of our union," King said.

"As I think of the struggle that we are engaged in in the South land, we look to you for inspiration ... where you have already accomplished in the area of racial harmony and racial justice what we are struggling to accomplish in other sections of the country."

He continued, "You can never know what it means to those of us caught for the moment in the tragic and often dark midnight of man's inhumanity to man, to come to a place where we see the glowing daybreak of freedom and dignity and racial justice."

According to The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, King's appearance also stirred up controversy. There was reportedly an argument on the House floor when a state representative said Hawaii Republican U.S. Senator Hiram L. Fong opposed civil rights legislation.

It should be noted that Fong was one of seven Republicans to introduce a package of civil rights legislation in the U.S. Senate in 1963.

King's Speech at UH

On February 19, 1964, Dr. King delivered a speech to UH-Manoa students, faculty, staff and community members on the subject of "Progress Toward Desegregation" at Andrews Outdoor Theater.

About 1,000 people attended King's lecture, which was part of Civil Rights Week.

"We have come a long, long way, but we have a long way to go before the problem is solved," he told attendees in the speech. "I believe that deep down within our nation, in spite of difficulties, there is a desire to move toward integration."

Lei march at Selma 

During the third Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, King and others were photographed wearing lei.

They were gifts from Hawaii's beloved Rev. Abraham Akaka.

The gesture was meant to send a message of hope in the wake of the previous weeks of upheaval that Dr. King and protesters endured.

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