(VIA MSNBC) ATLANTA — The eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was expected to address a crowd of hundreds gathered Monday to mark the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday named for his father.
Martin Luther King III, president and chief executive officer of The King Center, was to deliver the keynote address at the annual holiday observance, held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father preached from 1960 until his death in 1968.
He has linked the holiday honoring the winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner to the tragic shootings in Tucson, Ariz., which left six people dead and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life, saying the horrific incident underscores the continued need for King’s message.
That link was underlined Monday when astronaut Mark Kelly, Rep. Giffords’ husband, tweeted : “As my wonderful wife @Rep_Giffords continues to make progress, let us all pause and reflect on this MLK day.”
King would have been 82 on Jan. 15. Members of the King family also planned to lay a wreath at the tombs of Martin Luther King Jr. and his widow, Coretta Scott King.
King is the only American who was not a U.S. president to have a federal holiday named in his honor. He has been recognized on the third Monday in January since 1986.
The commemorative service caps a week of events that included a ceremony honoring King at the state Capitol and The Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner, which honored the late Sen. Edward Kennedy for his work on civil rights. His widow, Victoria, attended the ceremony and accepted the award on his behalf. The senator died at age 77 in 2009 after a battle with brain cancer.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was also scheduled to speak Monday.