Four days before he was killed, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stood before 4,000 people in the still unfinished Washington Cathedral and declared: " . . . we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels . . . that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a revolution."

King preached long, nearly an hour, to an audience used to hearing just 20 minutes or so of sacred words. Every seat in the chapel was taken, and people spilled out onto the stairs, onto the north and south lawns, up to the edge of the roadside. Outside, they listened to the speech on a public address system.

"It was a highly emotional day, because of who he was and because of the times," said Nancy Montgomery, who was director of communications at the cathedral. "They were very difficult times, like the ones we're going through now."

Today, on the Monday holiday that most states officially will recognize King's 62nd birthday, many will recount his life in terms of his leadership of the civil rights movement. But others, their memories particularly jolted by the warring in the Persian Gulf, will remember King's words of peace and his many protests, writings and speeches against the war in Vietnam.

"I think of {King} not only in the struggle for civil rights, but also I think of him as a great pacifist because he was against the war," Montgomery said. "At a time when a lot of people weren't coming out and saying the war was wrong, he did."

Montgomery, a grandmother who did not want to give her age, said King came to mind Tuesday during a peace vigil at the cathedral, perhaps "because there was a huge crowd at the vigil and there was a huge crowd that day he spoke."

The cathedral speech was King's last Sunday sermon. On April 4, 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis.

"We remembered him so vividly -- when we heard he was killed -- because he had just preached to us," Montgomery said.

The Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre Jr., then dean of the Washington Cathedral, said King came to speak that day at his invitation.

Sayre, who now lives in Vineyard Haven, Mass., had heard King speak often, and he remembers that much of the sermon was familiar to him. "But what stands out is that it was a combination of civil rights and world peace," said Sayre, 76. "It was wonderful the way he wove the two together. Kids today should know about his concern for world peace. That was a big part of him."

As early as 1965, King spoke out publicly against U.S. policy in the Vietnam War. He said he was compelled to oppose the war as a Christian and as a minister.

Canon Leonard Freeman was in seminary school when he went to the Washington Cathedral that mild March day in 1968 to hear King. "I remember thinking, 'I came to hear a great sermon on the civil rights movement; don't talk about the war,' " Freeman, 47, said.

King said that day, "There comes a time when one must take the position that it is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right."

As he drove back to the seminary after the speech, Freeman said, "I was thinking that it was very much like Martin Luther King to stretch us, to broaden our images and make us dig deeper inside ourselves."

Julian Bond, a visiting professor at American University, remembers the harsh criticism King received for his anti-war stance, and said he has noticed that history lessons too often exclude King's contributions to the peace movement.

"If you ask 100 people who is Martin Luther King, they'll mention the March on Washington, the 'I Have a Dream' speech, blacks and whites together or the Montgomery boycott," he said. "It's comfortable and convenient to pigeonhole him. But he spoke out against apartheid in South Africa as well as segregation in Alabama. He was a universalist."

The Rev. Gayle Harris, 39, priest in charge at Holy Communion Episcopal Church in Southeast, called King "a visionary." Harris, who delivered the Martin Luther King observance sermon at the Washington Cathedral's evening service yesterday, said, "His issues were not as narrow as some of us wanted to keep them. To bomb four little girls in church in Birmingham was equally as evil to him as dropping napalm bombs on children in Vietnam."