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If ‘the king’ and King lived on

POSTED: January 20, 2010 4:00 a.m.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have “what if” moments when I think about persons who have passed away.

  

This is a quirky combination, but I was having those thoughts about Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t know if their paths ever crossed, but they did in my mind last week.

  

Elvis, had he lived, would have been 75 on Jan. 8. I have trouble keeping up with family birthdays, but somehow, I’ve got the king of rock ‘n’ roll’s birth and death dates etched in my mind.

  

I always liked jumpsuit Elvis.

  

Nobody seems to wear jumpsuits any more. My daddy used to wear jumpsuits, but they were the kind you bought at Sears, Roebuck and wore when you were painting the house. Those jumpsuits were generally about two sizes too big and had an abundance of room.

  

Elvis, on the other hand, wore jumpsuits that looked like they had to grease him up before he slid into one.

  

There were three evolutions of Elvis: the young hip swinger, the black leather and then, the jumpsuit.

  

I thought about what the next evolution might have been. Elvis might have made the leisure suit era last longer than the 15 minutes it occupied in the ’70s.

  

What if Elvis had lived on, would we have a 75-year-old man still gyrating somewhere? Would there be an Elvis theater in Branson, Vegas or Memphis, where the fans would show up to see the senior citizen king? Or would he have mellowed out and become more like Tony Bennett or Andy Williams, who are still going strong in their 80s?

  

The other King, Martin Luther, has a couple of generations of Americans who know him only as a historical figure. I’m old enough to remember the bulletins being flashed on TV that he had been shot and killed in Memphis, oddly enough, Elvis’ hometown.

  

Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 81 on Jan. 15. He was just 39 when he was shot on that balcony at the Lorraine Motel. He had four young children. His son Dexter is about my age. I remember seeing his children on TV and thinking about the tragic loss of their daddy.

  

I’ve often wondered what he would think about what’s happening today. Could he have imagined that in what would have been his lifetime, American voters elected a black president?

  

Would he have run for political office or would he have become a president of a major university? Those are questions for which we will never have an answer.

  

There are people who read this and will want to send me an ugly e-mail because I wrote about Martin Luther King Jr. Do me a favor and don’t. While he and I probably wouldn’t have seen eye to eye on some things, I have lived long enough to see the last bastions of segregation erased from the landscape.

  

And whether you’re a liberal or conservative, that was a good thing.

  

Presley and King were from two very different pages in the book of history, but both left an indelible impact during and after their lives and times.

  

Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is harrisblackwood@gmail.com.

 

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