Martin Luther King Jr. stayed at the Michaux house in Durham several times during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, and King influenced H. M. “Mickey” Michaux Jr. to go into politics. The Democratic state representative is retiring this year after 19 terms in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Michaux hasn’t slowed down much, and said he used his 88th birthday in September to reflect on his life and career. He said a lot of people have asked him what he plans to do next. He wants to work on a memoir with his wife, June. He plans to start a foundation, and he wants other civil rights leaders to join him.
“I’m not going to take my hands out [of politics] completely. There are several things I know Martin [Luther King Jr.] would have liked to accomplish — that last rung on the ladder, I would like to keep pushing. In 1964, we got the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act in ’65 ... The one leg left is equality,” Michaux said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The foundation would be a think tank “where we could bring all minds together to work on that last leg of the stool, equality,” Michaux said. He said he and June Michaux will start working on fundraising and “getting folks involved on a national level.”
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He said he has talked with Andrew Young, Johnnetta Cole, Vernon Jordan, Jesse Jackson and Doug Wilder about it.
Young is a former civil rights leader who worked closely with King and is also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former mayor of Atlanta. Cole is the former director of the National Museum of African Art and former president of Spelman College. Jordan is a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. Jackson is a longtime civil rights leader. Wilder, a former governor of Virginia, was the first elected African-American governor.
“You can legislate certain things, and the other things you can’t legislate,” Michaux said. “You have to have a change of mind, a change of heart, and you can’t legislate that.” He said the think tank would work to “influence people to understand that we are all equal, a basic equality among us.”
He said he talks to the leaders he named about things like that already, and will get back in touch with them when he formalizes his new plan.