Dallas civil rights leader heads back to Memphis to honor MLK 50 years later

A Dallas pastor who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. is headed back to Memphis to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination.

Reverend Peter Johnson moved to Dallas after King was killed and stayed in the fight for equality for all people.

The walls in Johnson's office are filled with moments in a movement that made its way to Memphis five decades ago. Johnson said he worked alongside other civil rights leaders like Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson to help improve people’s lives. But as time passes by, this anniversary could be the final one for the group.

“We know because of our age and our health this will be the last time that we are in Memphis together, so this fiftieth anniversary is very special for me,” Johnson said.

King was killed by an assassin's bullet on the balcony of the Loraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Johnson, just 23 at the time, was in Memphis when the deadly shooting happened.

“That gunshot in Memphis brought us all back to what America really was … that people of color live in jeopardy of going to the grave yard in America yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Johnson said.

But the civil rights movement didn’t die with King. Johnson would go to jail more than one hundred times over the following five decades in the struggle to achieve equality.

“Jail became a badge of honor, to say I went to jail for freedom, I went to jail for justice,” Johnson said.

Johnson says America has changed and tremendous progress has occurred, but there’s still plenty of work to do --- like ending police brutality, affordable health care, sustainable housing and fair wages.

“The tragedies that we faced fifty years ago, we face at a different level today and we have to understand that and keep on pushing,” Johnson said. “To the next generation, I’ve got to hand them the ball and they’ve got to realize, you know -- we're close to the goal line but we have not scored yet.”