Alton High students participated in the King celebration on Sunday at Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Residents and government officials witnessed an inspiring Martin Luther King Day ceremony Sunday at a packed Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.

The Alton branch of the NAACP sponsors the event. James Gray, president of the Alton NAACP, said it was just a great program on Sunday.

“It couldn’t have been better,” he said. “We had a lot of government officials here including the Alton mayor Brant Walker and a lot of other residents."

King was shot and killed April 4, 1968 in Memphis Tenn., by assassin James Earl Ray.

Rev. Gregory Stoner of Decatur was the keynote speaker and his topic was Martin Luther King and how he died for freedom of others.

Gray said because of King’s sacrifices much has changed.

“We have our first black president and superintendent of schools and many people hired in high profile jobs that would have never been hired if Dr. King hadn’t done what he did,” Gray said. “I think of the sacrifices he made and how he was willing to put his life on the line every day for the sake of people he didn’t even know. He knew they were not being treated fairly and he did what he did to try to make sure we had equal rights.”

Gray praised Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church for hosting the event each year.

“I always think of what Dr. King sacrificed with his family," Gray said. "He had children and a wife, but he put his life on the line for people across the United States. He knew the danger he was in but he didn’t stop and he kept on fighting.”

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