Savannah Civil Rights pioneer discusses Dr. King's legacy

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s way of life that inspired many Civil Rights activists, including in Savannah.

Dr. Otis S. Johnson was in seventh grade when he first started to be inspired by Dr. King.

"I was a young man and he was a giant among men. He was just a very gifted person," Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson says he was inspired by Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolence. It's what he kept in the back of his mind in 1963 as he prepared to desegregate Armstrong Junior College as the first African American student.

"Would I have to practice nonviolence? You know, nonviolence requires a lot when you have people hitting you, spitting at you, doing those things to you," Dr. Johnson said.

He continued to watch Dr. King. He attended his events all the way up until Dr. King's assassination on April 4, 1968.

Though the man he looked up to was gone, Dr. Johnson continued to move forward with Dr. King's dream. In 2004, he was elected as Savannah's second African American mayor.

Fast forward to 2018, Dr. Johnson considers what Dr. King may think about the current status of Savannah.

"He would probably say, 'You still have a lot of work to do.' We still have a high poverty rate, young people are still struggling to get a good education to get out of poverty, we have violence that we have been struggling with...so all of the issues that were foremost on his mind are still with us today," Dr. Johnson said.

Although Dr. King is no longer with us, Dr. Johnson says the Civil Rights leader's words and actions continue to inspire those wanting to change the word.

"In dying, he gave life to so much more. That's still alive and moving forward."

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