President Obama and dozens of other world leaders honored the memory of Nelson Mandela at a service in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
That event occurred on a day that marks the anniversary of a watershed moment for a man Mandela referred to as a major inspiration.
"We kind of think of King only as an advocate of non-violence or as a civil rights leader, but King was much more than that. And the Nobel Prize, at some level, could be seen as a pivot in that direction," says Dr. Cliff Kuhn, a history professor at Georgia State University.
One of the first things King did after winning the award was walk in his first labor picket line, supporting striking workers in Northeast Atlanta.
That action, and others between then and King's death in 1968, left a lasting impression on Mandela, who placed a wreath at King's tomb during his 1990 visit to Atlanta.
"The fact that the movement of the '50's and '60's was still being evoked in the 1990's by this international figure, who of course, would win the Nobel Prize, is a strong testament to the enduring legacy and power of Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights Movement," says Kuhn.
During Tuesday's speech at the memorial in Johannesburg, President Obama compared Mandela to a number of other leaders, including Dr. King.