The Dexter Echo recounts King’s final sermon as pastor.
Sunday, January 31, 1960 was a great day in Dexter! It was the final official day for Dr Martin Luther King as Minister. And a glorious occasion it was—beginning at the morning worship hour and continuing through the evening hour featuring “A SALUTE TO DR & MRS MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr, a joint production from the matchless pens of Dr W E Anderson and Mrs Mary Fair Burks and followed by a fellowship dinner in our dining room directed by our social committee headed by Mrs F W Taylor, SR.1
At the morning hour, Dr King spoke to a capacity audience which filled the balcony and all extra chairs which could be placed in the auditorium. Using as his Scriptural reference St Luke 12:54-56, Dr King chose as the subject of his final message “Lessons from History.”2 One of the unique aspects of mankind, stated he, is that man has a history and can comprehend history. Lower animals, caught in the clutches of the moment, have no yesterdays and no tomorrows. On the other hand, man has yesterdays and therefore a tomorrow—he can commune with the past and think on the future. One of the great tragedies of our times, however, is the fact that too often man does not make use of this unique ability with which he is endowed.
He listed three lessons to be learned from history: (1) He who oppresses another will ultimately be cut down as a result of such oppression. No oppressor, he stated, can permanently survive. In this connection, he listed as examples France under the Louises, England, Germany under Hitler, and America with her problems of discrimination and segregation.
(2) Militarism is ultimately suicidal. Referring to militarism as ‘the twin of imperialism’, Dr King used Napoleon to show that military genius is not the answer and declared that he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.
(3) A great creative idea whose time has come can not be stopped. The quest for human freedom and dignity is the great idea of this day, stated he; and the quest is evident whether in Accra, Johannesburg, Berlin, New York, of Montgomery. He declared that whenever the secular superstructure is cut off from its moral and spiritual foundation, disintegration sets in—whether in society or whether in individual life. The man who allows PRELIMINARY concerns to take precedence over ULTIMATE concerns is doomed. Man must live by the WITHIN as well as by the WITHOUT. Whenever STRUCTURE absorbs DESTINY, we are in chaos. He reiterated his worry about America and her practical atheism—where we deny by our lives the very existence of God and where the materialistic is what is important. [This article continued with excerpts from Anderson's remarks at the church tribute to the Kings]
1. Anderson was vice chair of the church’s Board of Deacons. Burks was chair of Dexter’s Social-Political Action Committee. Cleonia K. Taylor served as chair of the Courtesy Committee, and her husband, Franklyn W. Taylor, was the chair of Dexter’s Finance Committee.
2. Luke 12:54–56: “And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”
Dexter Echo, 3 February 1960, DABCC.