updated 4/2/2005 7:16:30 PM ET 2005-04-03T00:16:30

The voice of Martin Luther King Jr. boomed again from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church on Saturday as dozens of people gathered to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination.

Excerpts of several King speeches were played over a loudspeaker at the church where King preached from 1960 to 1968, including his “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech, delivered in Memphis, Tenn., just hours before his death.

'He changed my life'
Among the crowd was U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a lieutenant of King’s during the civil rights movement who became a follower as a teenager after hearing King on the radio during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, remembered being a nervous college student when he met King for the first time. “He changed my life,” Lewis recalled. “The most peaceful warrior of the 20th century lived and walked among us.”

Their 10-year relationship ended when King was gunned down on a Memphis hotel balcony on April 4, 1968. Lewis was in Indianapolis when he heard the news.

“It was a very sad and dark hour in America and for the movement,” Lewis said. “But we didn’t give up. We didn’t give in. We kept the faith.

“Martin Luther King is telling us today that we must never give up or lose faith,” he said.

After listening to the speeches, the multiracial audience of at least 100 people joined hands and sang the battle hymn of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”

'Hit me like a bolt of lightning'
Patricia Wilson, who came to the ceremony with her two sisters, was a 20-year-old college student when she heard of King’s death.

“It hit me like a bolt of lightning,” she recalled. “I wondered what was happening to our country.”

Wilson, 57, of San Diego, said she wanted to mark the anniversary of King’s death at King’s church.

“Hearing his voice, the greatness of the man is something that touches me. He was somebody who gave his life for social change,” Wilson said.

King was 39 when he died. James Earl Ray was convicted in the slaying a year later and sentenced to 99 years in prison. He died in 1998.

Organizers urged the audience to remember King’s life as well as his death and to celebrate his enduring legacy.

“Martin Luther King, more than any other American of the 20th century, had the power, the ability and the capacity to bring more people together to do good,” Lewis said.

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