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January 28, 2008



I was named for my dad

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In suburban Atlanta, there's a graphics designer with a curious hobby. When he travels, he likes to look for and have his picture taken with certain street signs. "I send them home to my mother," he says. "She gets a kick out of it." That's because his name appears on the signs. And although he isn't famous, the name is, so he knows he's certain to find these signs in Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Washington. Ditto for Dallas; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Seattle; Newark, N.J., and a host of other cities. What's more, the most recent national holiday also bears his name. Now that's a lot of visibility, but for Martin Luther King Jr. it goes with the territory.

It's pure coincidence that he is the namesake of the civil rights pioneer. For starters, he is white. And at the time he was born the other MLK Jr. had yet to be awarded a doctoral degree, much less to lead a protest against segregation. Still, there is confusion over our guy's identity. The Postal Service once designated him "deceased" and canceled delivery of his mail, and occasionally racial slurs have turned up on his answering machine. But although he says he's humbled that others speak of him and Dr. King in the same breath, he realizes that he'll always be lesser known. In fact, he prefers it. If you and he ever cross paths, call him "Marty." It's his way of solidifying his own individuality.

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