Atlanta With the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. absent for the first time in nearly four decades, preachers and politicians urged people Monday to continue the slain leader's lifelong pursuit of civil rights and nonviolence.
On the holiday marking King's birth, some speakers used the pulpit of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church to criticize the Iraq war, saying money being used by the military overseas could be better spent domestically on projects such as education, especially for blacks.
Coretta Scott King, recovering from a stroke and heart attack that partially paralyzed her, stayed home and watched the ceremonies on television. It was the first time in 38 years she has missed the service at the church where King preached from 1960 until his death in 1968. She received a standing ovation Saturday night when she appeared on stage with her children at an awards dinner, her first public appearance since last year's King holiday.
Elsewhere around the nation, President Bush took in a rare public showing of the original Emancipation Proclamation; hundreds of people marched in New Orleans, Little Rock, Ark., and Columbia, S.C., and volunteers worked on projects to help others in Philadelphia.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the federal holiday, first observed on Jan. 20, 1986. Sunday would have been the assassinated civil rights leader's 77th birthday.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said the city has a particular obligation to preserve King's "legacy of fighting for social and economic justice, a legacy of marching with the poor and the neglected, a legacy of demanding peace against senseless war."
Hurricane Katrina debris along New Orleans' Martin Luther King Boulevard had been cleaned up in advance of a holiday parade Monday, but many nearby buildings remained abandoned and in ruins.