QUINCY -- The Rev. Orville Jones called on young people to seek education as civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. did.
"I want to challenge you to follow the example of a man who has experienced the very racism and injustice and atrocities he fought so vehemently to eradicate," Jones said. "Don't allow yourself to be drawn into the mess of the world around you. There will be people that will tempt you and try and pull you off, but you keep on striving for something great.
"Stay in school. Get those good grades. Dr. King understood what it was to be a smart brother, and let me tell you if somebody tries and makes you feel like you're dumb for being smart, I got news for you. You're smart for being smart."
Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church, spoke on King as the intellectual man as part of the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday at Jones' church sponsored by the Quincy branch of the NAACP. The service focused on "The Spiritual Man, the Intellectual Man and the Civil Rights Man.
"The civil rights leader, who would have turned 89 Monday, was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. He was 39.
After the 1956 bombing at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church parsonage in Montgomery, Ala., Jones noted that King, who was pastor of the church and lived in the parsonage, called for nonviolence.
"He spoke to them, and he said to them: 'We must not meet their physical force with more physical force. We have to meet physical force with soul force. We have to be able to answer their troubles and their mess with love and understanding,' " Jones said. "And he told them to go home and that it's going to be all right."
The Rev. James Hailey, pastor of Bethel AME Church, spoke of the spiritual side of King and the importance of prayer during the civil rights movement.
"I know as a leader for Dr. King, he had to pray with the brothers and sisters who were walking back in their day and time because they were wondering if they were going to make it," Hailey said. "They were wondering because you know they didn't have the protection of the police officers, because many of them were being ostracized, talked about and hit."
Hailey said King had to pray when he was jailed in 1963 in Birmingham, Ala., where he wrote his open letter on nonviolent resistance.
"When people pray, God can move," Hailey said.
Speaking on King as the civil rights man, the Rev. Timothy White, pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, noted how in the less than 13 years King provided leadership in the civil rights movement and African-Americans achieved more progress toward racial equality than they had in the previous 350 years.
"His accomplishments have been taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide," White said. "He is the only nonpresident to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor. He is the only nonpresident memorialized on the great mall in our nation's capital.
"He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public places around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly relevant to the progress of humankind."