OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) - The 41st anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Junior is marked for the first time in history with an African American president in office. King was murdered at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis April 4, 1968. Hundreds of riots across the United States ensued after the assassination of the civil rights icon.
"When you're leader dies you kind of feel like things are gone and nobody else can take the place of him because he was such a great man," said Rev. R.J. Hill of Osceola.
Hill has been the pastor of the First Baptist Frenchman Church in Frenchman's Bayou for more than 20 years. His congregation is made up of primarily African Americans. Hill said he has tried to live his own life in the footsteps of King.
"Things that you couldn't do as a black person, so we went through that period where certain things were not available to you," said Hill.
Hill said he witnessed segregation first hand in the 1960s. He said it's difficult to describe the atmosphere to his children and grandchildren.
"You explain the laws at that time, how they were, the things that were passed by nationalists or whatever, that the laws were, they had 2 sets of laws, 1 for black and 1 for white and so that's how you explain it to them, those things that you couldn't do those things as a black person," said Hill.
King's message to the oppressed was not to retaliate against violence. He believed equal civil rights could be obtained without violence.
"You don't retaliate against the evil that comes against you, whatever comes against you, you don't retaliate because that don't help the situation, it only makes it worse," said Hill. "Retaliation was something that would not fulfill the dream that he had, so that taught me to be humble and be kind to everybody."
"The dream that he had kind of kept him going, that was one of the things that, you know, if somebody did take up the slack, and has kept it going, it's getting better and better every year," said Hill.
Hill said the election of President Obama would not have happened if King did not lead the civil rights movement.
"In looking at his life, he gave a lot by non-violence, even when he went to jail, some of the jailors could not figure out what kind of man he was and he won a lot of those people over by his humbleness," said Hill.
Hill said the 2008 election was a sign of progress for equality, but more work remains ahead.
"It's fulfilling, it's not completely fulfilled, it's come a long ways from where he started and some of the things that he said in his speeches have happened," said Hill. "He always loved everybody and treated everybody right, like he wanted to be treated."
"It wasn't about that he wanted people to be superior over everybody, he just wanted people to have the same rights as everybody in America," said Hill.