Judge Stewart reflects on the contributions of Martin Luther King’s legacy

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was included a book written by Judge Ted Stewart A Mark of a Giant; Seven People Who Changed the World. Photo credit: U.S. State Department.

SALT LAKE CITY – On Jan. 6 protesters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol causing havoc and trying to make congress suspend proceedings to confirm the election of Joe Biden as president.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. displays his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1964. The 35-year-old Dr. King was honored for promoting the principle of non-violence in the civil rights movement. (AP Photo)

Such violence runs contrary to the philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr., the African American leader of the Civil Rights movement who was killed in 1968.

One August 28, 1963 more than 200,000 people of all races congregated in Washington, D. C. for a peaceful march with the main purpose of pushing civil rights legislation and trying to establish job equality for all citizens of the country. At that march King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

On July 2, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation that was initiated by President John F. Kennedy before his assassination.

Judge Ted Stewart, a current Federal Judge in Salt Lake City who was raised in Franklin County, was contacted by Cache Valley Daily about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his impact on America. Stewart included MLK in his book, A Mark of a Giant; Seven People Who Changed the World.

** FILE ** This April 1968 photo released by the MLK Jr. National Historic Site, Martin Luther King Jr.s’ body is carried to Morehouse College in Atlanta, on a mule-drawn wagon accompanied by his aides dressed in denim attire. The wagon, mules and denim clothes symbolized the Poor People’s Campaign. The photograph is part of the exhibition “From Memphis to Atlanta: The Drum Major Returns Home” at Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site April 4-August 31, 2008. (AP Photo/MLK Jr. National Historic Site,Courtesy of Bob Adelman)

Stewart talked of growing up in Weston, an all-white community during the Civil Rights Movement. There were no African Americans in the community and certainly not much diversity.

All of the Civil Rights unrest that I saw on television at the time didn’t hit home as to how important it was,” he said. “I became a great fan of Martin Luther King when I studied his life for my book. As I research his life, I became more influenced by him and what he accomplished.”

He said MLK made America examine their prejudices by championing Civil Rights. At the time, the country was depriving certain members of our society equality, in opportunity and in justice.

“In 1964 the Civil Rights Act said everyone should be equal, the blacks should have the same rights as the whites,” the judge said. “He was a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi who, throughout his time, employed nonviolent means leading India to independence of British rule.”

FILE: The statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The memorial will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 28. The Washington Monument is at right. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

There were some African Americans at the time that thought the movement was not moving fast enough they needed riots, protest and terrorism to change the tide of racism. MLK refused to go along with that.

“He proved to be right,” the Utah State University graduate said. ”The rights came without a great deal of violence, but it was slow in coming.”

Stewart said MLK was not a perfect man. The FBI was investigating him.

“But we learn a great lesson from that,” he said. “Imperfect men can bring to pass a lot of good.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. The march was organized to support proposed civil rights legislation and end segregation. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, advocating nonviolent action against America’s racial inequality. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. (AP Photo)

So many people are quick to point out imperfections, especially in leaders and especially those founders of a movement that have changed a society.

Imperfect people have found the most promising causes in the history of the world,” he said. “Some people find fault with Abraham Lincoln, but he accomplished a lot of good with his imperfections.”

“I’m a great fan of Martin Luther King,” he said. “I had all of my children read the chapter on King. I wanted them to know about him.”

Judge Ted Stewart was nominated by President Bill Clinton on July 27, 1999 to the United States District Court of the State of Utah. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 5, 1999, and sworn in on November 15, 1999.

Judge Stewart graduated with a B.S. degree from Utah State University and obtained his juris doctorate degree from the University of Utah.

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