Today, in honoring and remembering Martin Luther King Jr., the most prominent leader of the civil rights movement, I came across some interesting facts about him I never knew, and perhaps maybe you didn't either. Of course, we know how he motivated millions with his commanding speeches and nonviolent resistance to Jim Crow Laws and discriminatory acts against African-Americans, but also how, in 1968, his life was senselessly cut short by assassination. There's no doubt that Martin Luther King Jr's message of peace and prosperity lives on today in anyone who understands and supports the mission he represented. Here are other intriguing facts about Dr. King as illustrated by History online:

**King's Birth Name Was Michael, Not Martin**

The teachings of Protestant Leader Martin Luther deeply inspired King's father, who was also a pastor. So much so that he changed not only his name to Martin Luther but young King's, as well. His birth name was Michael.

**King Started College when he was 15 years old**

As a gifted student, King didn't attend high school. Instead, he went straight to Morehouse College in 1944. The school was the alma mater of both his father and grandfather. King had planned to take a different life path as a sociologist but was convinced by the president of Morehouse and his father to lead and inspire people as a theologist. By 1955 he had earned his Ph.D. from Boston University.

**King's First Speech at the Lincoln Memorial was not 'I Have a Dream'**

King first stood atop Lincoln Memorial in 1957 for a speech to address voting rights in America. A crowd of about 20,000 people liked what he had to convey, and the rest is history. By 1963, his iconic 'I Have a Dream" speech at the same location would forever resonate with the country.

**King went to Jail 29 Times**

It turns out King was arrested 29 times for civil disobedience and "far-fetched" charges. In 1956, word has it, he was arrested and jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, for driving 30 miles an hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone. Sounds about as unjustified as it gets.

**There was an Assassination Attempt on King's Life 10 Years Before His Death**

In 1958, while in Harlem for a book signing event for his novel Stride Toward Freedom, Izola Ware Curry stabbed King in the chest with a letter opener. King underwent hours of surgery for the life-threatening injury. In the aftermath, King published a statement of his nonviolent principles and forgiveness for his attacker.

**The Foretelling of King's Death Came During His Last Public Speech**

At Mason Temple Church in Memphis, the night before his assassination, he told the audience this: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now … I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

**King's Family Believes James Earl Ray wasn't his only Assassin**

King's widow, Coretta, believes the government and the Mafia were the actual killers of her husband. She sought relief when a 1991 civil trial in Memphis determined that King's assassination was a conspiracy for which Ray became a scapegoat. By 2000, however, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report indicating no evidence of a conspiracy.

**A Bullet also Claimed the Life of King's Mother Six Years after his Death**

At the age of 69 in June of 1974, King's mother, Alberta Williams, was gunned down and killed by Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. while playing the organ at the same church (Ebenezer Baptist in Georgia) her son had preached at for years. A church deacon also died in the attack. Due to the King family's belief in non-violence, authorities changed Chenault's sentence from the death penalty to life in prison.

It's astounding what King and his family endured along the way. For his courage, strength, and diligent fight, remembering Martin Luther King Jr. today and every day!

Get our free mobile app

KEEP READING: Scroll to see what the big headlines were the year you were born

Here's a look at the headlines that captured the moment, spread the word, and helped shape public opinion over the last 100 years.