HARLINGEN — It was a day he’d never forget.
Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Jeffry Adickes, now the Harlingen police chief, asked his mother what the assassination meant.
“He was just trying to help people but others have hate in their hearts,” Adickes remembers her saying. Adickes still remembers that tragic day, and the civil rights leader’s influence on his life.
“As a lifelong student of leadership, there are a small number of people who I have followed for their courage, their kindness, their vision and their guidance,” Adickes said. “Martin Luther King Jr. is certainly in that group.”
Like many people, Adickes has a favorite Martin Luther King quote. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
George McShan, a Harlingen school board member, agreed King was a strong leader from whom others could learn.
“His intent was to treat everybody with fairness and equality,” McShan said. “As a result, I know my leadership is based on his principles. That’s how I practice. If you look at my body of work, all people are treated equally. My lens is focused on doing what’s right and what’s best for all people.
Mayor Chris Boswell said when he thinks of Martin Luther King, he remembers the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“My mind always goes first to that line where he hopes that his children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Boswell said. “That’s such a powerful and unifying sentiment. We should all want that for ourselves and especially for our children. He was a great American.”
Enriqueta Ramos, a retired anthropology professor now living in San Benito, said King’s “Dream” served the community as a model, a legacy to follow.
“I personally have always used his sacrifices as an example of what it took to get justice and equality in our society and systems,” she said.
“The educational system changed and more African Americans were admitted to universities and colleges which at one time were denied to them. I truly believe that because of the systems changing, our entire American society has changed and benefitted from those changes.”
It appears that Martin Luther King Jr.’s influence reaches across generations, ethnicities and genders. It’s an ever-growing tapestry of people who have been touched by his principles and incorporated them into their own lives.