Miami hotel reflects on MLK’s visits 50 years after assassination

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - This week marks 50 years since the assassination of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King’s legacy is felt across the country and around the world, but his name will always have a special place here in South Florida.

“It’s just the man there in the pool having a good time,” said Xavier Vega, Vice President of the historic Hampton House. “It puts a smile on your face.”

Vega was speaking of an image few people consider when they think about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — relaxing in a South Florida swimming pool.

That pool, located at Miami’s Hampton House is now a fountain. The historic hotel reopened in 2015 after a $6 million renovation.

But when the civil rights leader could get some time to unwind, he chose to do it at the corner of Northwest 27th Avenue and 42nd Street — the so-called “Social Center of the South.”

“This was a favorite place for Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Enid Curtis Pinkney, Founding President of the Hampton House. “He stayed here when he was in Miami and he did his first draft of his speech, his “I have a dream” speech, right here.”

The segregation of the day meant that by law, he didn’t have many choices. Miami Beach hotels were off limits, so Dr. King chose the place so many of his contemporaries chose.

“I think he enjoyed being here at the Hampton House, it was so elegant,” said Pinkney. “Seeing the celebrities that come here after hearing somebody is in town.”

Much of King’s work wasn’t about celebrities, but fighting for people at the opposite spectrum of society, especially when it came to economic security.

The fight for improved working conditions brought him to Memphis 50 years ago this week. “Mr. Echol Cole, Mr. Robert Walker — 50 years ago, these two young men lost their lives, due to faulty working equipment,” said a Miami sanitation worker. “They were crushed to death in a garbage truck. This incident triggered the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King coming to Memphis, Tennessee.”

In February, sanitation workers gathered in Miami and Doral to hold a moment of silence in for those men.

If Dr. King had not participated in that strike, there is no telling what path his life and history might have taken, but on his journey for Civil Rights and economic equality, Miami was a stop along the way.

“Dr. King’s legacy reverberates throughout the year in so many different moments,” said City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. “Obviously Martin Luther King day, the anniversary of his death. Days like today where we commemorate a strike he participated in shortly before he died. So there are just so many imprints of Dr. Kings legacy and life on our city still today, which makes him an incredible person in history.”

Civil Rights activists, politicians and people from around the world to honor the reverend Dr. Martin luther king Jr.

Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.