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Martin Luther King Jr. and Coca Cola – A Surprising Relationship

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s win of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 an interracial dinner was planned in Atlanta. When local business leaders refused to support the event the then CEO of Coca-Cola threatened to pull the company out of the city out of embarrassment.

J. Paul Austin of Coca-Cola and Mayor Ivan Allen called key local business leaders to a meeting to encourage their attendance and support of Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international business. The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co.” – J. Paul Austin, President, chairman, and CEO of Coca-Cola from 1962-1981.

Less than 2 hours later every ticket to the dinner had been sold.

In his final speech 4 years later, Martin Luther King Jr. called for a boycott of Coca-Cola due to their hiring practices.


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