Dr. King’s ties and impact on Louisville and Kentucky

Recognizing Louisville’s connections to Martin Luther King Jr. — including the March on Frankfort and A.D. King.

Four men stand looking at documents in a black and white image. From left: Frank Stanley Jr., Jackie Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Kentucky Governor Edward T. Breathitt.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was joined by Frank Stanley, Jr. and Jackie Robinson when he met with Kentucky Governor Edward T. Breathitt in March 1964.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Table of Contents

Louisville might not be the first place to come to mind when thinking about Martin Luther King Jr., but he has more connections to Derby City (and Kentucky at large) than you might think.

A.D. King

Dr. King’s brother, A.D. King was a pastor in Louisville at the Zion Baptist Church. He began serving as a pastor at the church in 1965, and led protests to seek open housing for African Americans. Dr. King visited River City at least three times to see his brother.

Following the assassination of his brother in 1968, A.D. King left Zion Baptist and returned to Atlanta.

A black and white photo of Jackie Robinson, Georgia Davis Powers, and Lawrence Montgomery standing outside, backdropped by a crowd of people.

Jackie Robinson, Georgia Davis Powers, and Lawrence Montgomery attended the March on Frankfort in 1964.

Photo via the Frazier History Museum Collection

The March on Frankfort

Dr. King delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, but he also led a march on a different capitol city the following year.

In perhaps his most influential trip to Kentucky, Dr. King led the March on Frankfort in March 1964. Alongside Georgia Davis Powers and Jackie Robinson, an estimated 10,000 Kentuckians marched on the state capitol. This led to the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966 — and A.D. King was invited to its signing.

King’s 1967 visit to UofL

Just a year before his death, Dr. King made another notable stop in Derby City. The University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law invited Dr. King to speak ahead of a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that was taking place in town.

When King arrived, the law school’s auditorium couldn’t contain the crowd. Onlookers bunched around windows, just to catch a glimpse of him. The year had seen demonstrations on racial discrimination in Louisville’s housing market, and King’s remarks focused on the issue.

His visit + speech made an impact. Later that year, the Board of Alderman (similar to today’s Metro Council) approved an open housing ordinance, making Louisville the first city in the South to pass such a measure.

More from LOUtoday