LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In March of 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood with city leaders and world celebrities as 10,000 people marched on the steps of Kentucky's State Capitol.
Kentucky later became the first state in the south to adopt a statewide civil rights law.
Fifty years after he was killed by an assassin's bullet in Memphis, Dr. King's life, and his work, were remembered in Louisville.
"We mourn what we lost because we can only imagine what it would mean for this country if he were alive today," Reverend Lewis Brogdon, Simmons College Provost, said. "When we really understand King in his context, and we understand that he was assassinated, he was murdered for what he stood for."
Bells rang 39 times at the St. Stephen Baptist Church at 6 p.m. to remember the moment King was murdered. Each was to mark one year of his short life.
"Although we lost a great leader, he remains with us through his deeds," Louisville NAACP President Raoul Cunningham said. "And we have got to try and make the world a better place to live."
Cunningham was a young activist in Louisville guided by the teachings of King. He called on anyone inspired by King's words today to be active and to vote.
Services at St. Stephen Baptist were organized by Simmons College of Kentucky. Much like the symbolic ringing of the bells, the occasion was both a moment to mourn and to motivate, even for generations too young to remember that day in Memphis.
"He spoke a message of love, but it was tough love and true love," Reverend Richard Hughes said. "He wanted to let you know 'you're doing wrong to me, stop it and let's address it.'"
And after the speeches, the bells at St. Stephen then rang again at 7:05, marking the profound moment when Dr. King was pronounced dead.