Martin Luther King Jr. is used to the puzzled looks he gets from people when they learn his name.
The white, long-haired graphics designer and children’s book author goes by “Marty” to maintain his anonymity in the suburbs of Atlanta, where the man who made the moniker famous once lived.
His name is just a coincidence, but it made Marty King pay attention to the civil rights movement while growing up in a small Tennessee town during the 1960s.
“In East Tennessee, he may not have had a lot of fans, but there were some people who agreed with him,” he said. “I liked his speeches. ... He was only asking for what he was due, but the way he did it commanded respect. He earned my parents’ respect.”
Marty King, 53, was named for his father, who was named for the German monk and theologian Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s.
It’s not the only famous name in his family. Marty King’s grandfather was named Abraham Lincoln.
Marty King said he is humbled by the association to an icon. “I could cure cancer and still wouldn’t be more famous,” he said.
A few hassles
The name connection has caused some hassles along the way. There was the time the U.S. Postal Service canceled his mail and marked it “deceased.”
Before Coretta Scott King died in 2006, Marty King received the occasional phone calls from confused people asking for the widow of the slain civil rights leader. He also has gotten racial slurs on his answering machine.
“Those you just push the (erase) button,” said Marty King, who no longer has voicemail on his phone.
But there are fun parts of having such a ubiquitous name.
“Every town you go into, you can always find a street sign that has your name on it and have a picture taken in front of it,” he said. “I send them home to my mother. She gets a kick out of it.”
Marty King says he expects to get calls from friends on Monday, the national holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. It happens every year.