A look back at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact in Miami

MIAMI – A rare picture shows civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Miami’s Overtown section back in the 1960s at the historic Hampton House.

Segregation made this a popular motel for traveling Black celebrities at the time.

King had a suite on the ground floor and is said to have delivered the first version of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at an event there.

“The person who was present there that heard this was A.D. Moore, and he told us that, and he said that he was so impressed that this is the speech that he gave at the Hampton House,” Miami native Enid Pinkney said.

Miami had a special claim to King. During one discussion there, he expressed the need for leaders to connect and unify, instead of divide Miami’s ever-growing Cuban and Black communities -- both minority groups looking for opportunity.

“I would like to leave Miami with the knowledge that the whole community will see this as its No. 1 problem and assign it top priority for things to do in the near future,” King said.

Pinkney remembers seeing King as a child.

“He went to Virginia Key Beach. He loved the beach,” she said. “I heard him speak at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. He spoke there, and people would go to hear him. He could always draw a crowd.”

Sixteen years ago this month, Local 10 News spoke with King’s eldest daughter, Yolanda.

“On King Day, it’s about giving back. It’s about a day on, not a day off,” she said.

Our interview happened exactly one year after her mother, Coretta Scott King, died from complications of a stroke. She was 78.

“Much of that last five months of her life, she could not really articulate, so I had to learn how to communicate with her through feeling,” Yolanda King said. “Feeling what she wasn’t saying. And it’s interesting because it set the stage for our relationship now. You know, the words are not there, but I feel her presence so strongly.”

Tragically, four months after our conversation, Yolanda King died of a heart attack. She was only 51.

“There’s nothing that can replace a parent or a sibling, and in a sense, because dad is so well known and every year we have various anniversaries to remember him, it’s almost like he is frozen in time. There’s nothing that can replace a mother, so I greatly miss her,” Martin Luther King III said.

If alive today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be 94 years old.

On Jan. 20, 1986, 18 years after he was assassinated on a motel balcony in Memphis, the first MLK Day national holiday was observed. The holiday is observed the third Monday in January.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now,” King said in a speech in April 1968. “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

After he was assassinated, the then-governor of Florida, Claude Kirk, issued a news release ordering flags on public buildings be flown at half-staff for three days.

The order stated it was also in honor of the man killed during riots in Tallahassee after news of the assassination.

About the Author:

Five-time Emmy Award-winning newscaster Calvin Hughes anchors WPLG-Local 10's 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.