About The Commission
About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 until his assassination in 1968. Born in Atlanta, King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, tactics his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi helped inspire.
King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and in 1957 became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). With the SCLC, he led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He also helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. The following year, he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War. He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People's Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents persisted for decades after the shooting. Sentenced to 99 years in prison for King's murder, effectively a life sentence as Ray was 41 at the time of conviction, Ray served 29 years of his sentence and died from hepatitis in 1998 while in prison.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington State was also rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.
Mission Statement: The mission of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission is to promote understanding and acceptance of nonviolence and human equality as a way of building community among all Arkansans
The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission was created by Act 1216 of 1993. The Commission is an offspring of the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday Commission and was established under then-Governor Bill Clinton by executive order. The Commission was created to promote the legacy and philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Initially, the Commission had one staff person and was housed within the Governor's Office at the State Capitol.
Governor Jim Guy Tucker appointed the 25 member board and recommended that Tracy Steele serve as Executive Director. Senator Steele served as Executive Director until November 2006, and in March 2008, a new Executive Director, DuShun Scarbrough, was appointed by the Commission. In 1997, The Commission developed a mission statement, purpose, goals and objectives; as well as a Junior Commission comprised of youth from across the region. In November 2018, the Commission relocated its current headquarters to 906 Broadway in the historic Ninth Street District.
Because of its limited resources, a consensus determined that the Commission would focus on youth-oriented projects first, and then expand. Violence and crime among youth were critical concerns with the people of Arkansas. Then-Governor Jim Guy Tucker called a special legislative session to deal with the problem of juvenile crime. The Commission formed the Junior Commission Board, which is composed of Arkansas high school and college students who have demonstrated strong qualities of leadership and community service. The Junior Commissioners have particular influence in advising the Commission on projects dealing with youth. Junior Commissioners have since been replaced with the development of Youth Commissioners. Each board member is able to choose one youth commissioner to represent their district. Each youth commissioner is a high school student who demonstrates strong leadership qualities and a desire to serve the community. Youth commissioners serve in a variety of areas including public speaking, volunteering, mentoring in our Dream Keepers, and Leadership, Education, and Acceptance of Diversity, or L.E.A.D. programs, established in 2008 by Executive Director, DuShun Scarbrough, and advising the commission on projects dealing with youth.