Were he still alive, Martin Luther King Jr. would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Jan. 15.
Felled by an assassin on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., King lived just 39 years but remains one of the most iconic and influential Americans ever.
King was the most prominent leader of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Howard Thurman, King embraced non-violent revolt against segregationist laws and policies in the United States.
He rose to national prominence during the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., which led to the end of segregated seating on the city’s buses.
In 1957, King was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization committed to non-violent protest.
King and other civil rights leaders organized the March on Washington in 1963, during which he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, which is as easily recognized among Americans as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech to Congress after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
On Oct. 14, 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in diminishing segregation in the U.S.