TEMPE, AZ - It’s been nearly fifty years since his death, and the impact Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had on the civil rights movement is undeniable in this country. As it turns out, he also had a significant impact on Arizona.
In 1964, Dr. King delivered a historic speech in front of thousands on campus at Arizona State University. Dr. King came to the Valley just one month before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"ASU welcomed King. ASU supported King. That's a really important story," explained Dr. Keith Miller, an English professor, and author.
Miller even saw Dr. King speak when he was a little boy.
"He's very impressive," said Miller.
And in 1964, it took a bold move to bring Dr. King to ASU to speak and endorse the Civil Rights Act. At the time, Sen. Barry Goldwater did not support it. He'd go on to secure the Republican nomination for president later that year.
"It took some courage from G. Homer Durham to invite King," said Miller.
And that's not the only Arizona connection. According to Dr. Miller, President Lyndon B. Johnson made a deal with Senator Carl Hayden to help pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In exchange, Miller says President Johnson green-lighted the Central Arizona Project, carrying water from the Colorado River right to the Valley.
"That source of water enabled Phoenix to be able to grow into a major metro area," said Miller.
Proving the Civil Rights movement helped the Valley grow in terms of the size of our population and the size of our hearts.
Dr. Miller's books are titled, "Martin Luther King's Biblical Epic: His Final, Great Speech" and "Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources."