COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Columbia Urban League President and CEO J.T. McLawhorn was a college student in 1968; the year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis.
"We were angry that this leader was taken away from us; one who promoted love," McLawhorn said.
King's message was one reason McLawhorn said motivated him to help with the Urban League; but he is not alone. University of South Carolina History Professor Dr. Bobby Donaldson said King's efforts are still being felt today.
"It is obvious that he had a real tremendous influence internationally. You see social movements really all over the world that look to the civil rights movement as lessons and instruction," Donaldson said.
Forty-five years later, King's legacy has progressed, but has a long way to go according to Donaldson.
"Given (King's) own history and his own participation a generation ago, there is no doubt in my mind that he would be absolutely vigilant; really raising questions about voter supremacy, voter oppression, raising questions about the Voter I.D. that have been adopted particularly across the south," Donaldson said.
Both men say they are optimistic about the future; and if people act in a civil manner, King's dream will become reality world wide.
"If people are not willing to take a stand, we will never make the progress that we need to make for a beloved community," McLawhorn said. "A society where people are respected."
"King was never convinced that change would come easy or immediate," Donaldson said. "Any of us that are committed to progress and to a better South Carolina have to really be in it for the long haul."
A haul made easier by remembering a true pioneer.