The Martin Luther King Jr. we knew 50 years ago

This is one of those rare years in which the official celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life falls on his actual birthday, Jan. 15. It will also mark, in April, the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

That a half-century has passed since King was cut down by an assassin’s bullet underscores how young he was — just 39 at his death — when he commanded the nation’s attention.

Not to mention that his considerable achievements — from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Poor People’s Campaign — spanned just 13 years.

Yet despite the worldwide acclaim for this champion of human rights and unwavering apostle of nonviolence, “not until he was gone did many Americans realize just how desperately we needed his presence,” as The Post wrote following his death.

In the period before his death, we added, King had become “a lonely pilgrim, derided and disowned by many, alternately branded an ‘impractical visionary’ and a ‘dangerous agitator.’ ”

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