Martin Luther King Jr.'s son attends MLK Street ceremony

Martin Luther King III
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INDIANAPOLIS - Martin Luther King III is praising progress in Indianapolis. The oldest son of the civil rights leader was in Indianapolis Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The city is celebrating major infrastructure improvements and the opening of the revitalized streetscape. This is part of a $2.3 million investment in the Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Street corridor.

"This truly is the kind of tribute that Martin Luther King Jr. would want to see, one that brings people together of every ethnic persuasion," said King.

King says other cities have also named roads after his father, but he thinks this is the best plan he's seen.

"This is something I believe my father would be proud of," he said. "All across the country, there are Martin Luther King drives and thoroughfares and, often times, people will establish them with the intent of doing an honor, but they don't get funded and they don't get the right kind, they don't have the right look."

The look, for years, has been an eyesore for the community, with dilapidated homes, poor streets and high crime rates. But economic development is on the rise, with new homes and businesses and increased public safety.

"You can look at the businesses and some of the non-profits along there and they've cleaned up also, so it's sending a message, you can look at the parks there, it's sending a message that this is an area that we want to thrive," said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

It's a message that mirrors the one delivered by Robert Kennedy. While other major cities went up in flames when they heard the news that Dr. King had been killed, Kennedy's announcement in Indianapolis that night was calming. There were no riots, just peace.

"This is a unique city, in a way, because it did not embrace violence, which is wonderful," King said. "Although my dad died in a violent way, he certainly always was promoting non-violence."

His father's legacy for all people to create a nation where freedom, justice and equality exists, King says, isn't completely realized.

"That's really what my dad and mother wanted to see for our nation and our world," he said.

But Indianapolis is now the benchmark, setting a tone for other cities to honor the man with a dream with a street that resembles his vision of hope and prosperity.

"It hopefully will inspire others around the nation to say, 'You know what? If Indianapolis did it, then maybe we can do it also'," King said.

King says a new memorial honoring his father will be dedicated in Washington D.C. on August 28.

More from the city:

The City resurfaced the street from Fall Creek Parkway to north of 30th Street and made sidewalk improvements, including adding curb ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The City installed decorative crosswalks, five new bus shelters, pedestrian signal improvements, gateway towers at 30th Street, and infrastructure improvements including rain gardens and landscaped medians, on-street parking and traffic flow improvements.

Students attending nearby schools selected quotes from Dr. King's speeches that were engraved in a series of transit stops along the street. The landmarks also feature posters and biographical information of such local legends and historical figures as retired journalist Barbara Boyd, artist William Ryder, cycling hero Marshall "Major" Taylor, Crispus Attucks basketball coach and teacher Ray Crowe, and auto-racing pioneer Charlie Wiggins.

The streetscape plans call for a second phase of improvements to the area of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, which will be announced at a future date.