Today in 1977, Martin Luther King Jr. was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter.
King, Carter said, “was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet.”
In awarding the medal, accepted by King’s wife, Corretta Scot King, Carter described racial discrimination as “even more all encompassing” than polio. At the same ceremony, Dr. Jonas Salk, who discovered the vaccine for that disease, was given the same award.
“With unswerving dedication, superb courage, sensitivity, and humility and a dedication to peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped to remove this threat and this affliction,” Carter said.