ABC News’ Elicia Dover and Arlette Saenz report:
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – At a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King this morning, Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry spoke about the influence King had upon this country as he devoted his life to breaking down racial barriers.
Rep. Tim Scott was also in attendance and told ABC News he has narrowed down his list of which candidate to endorse down to three.
Scott, who has hosted a number of town halls with the presidential candidates this election cycle, said he was planning to endorse a candidate before the primary. Scott would not say who was on his list except to say that it includes Gingrich.
“He still on my list,” Scott said. “Frankly, there’s only two or three left on my list and he’s one of them. There’s no doubt that Newt has done a lot to earn an endorsement in many ways, but obviously I’m not at the point where he’s done enough, but he’s a done a lot of work the tea party candidates.”
Gingrich gave a short speech today, but told the predominately black voters in the room of the inspiration he drew from Dr. King’s birthday.
“The very first bill I cosponsored in 1979 as a new freshman congressman from Georgia was the holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And as a Georgian I felt a particular obligation to stand up and say this was the right thing to do,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich landed in hot water a couple of weeks ago when he said he wanted to appear before the NAACP and tell them why they should want pay checks over food stamps. Gingrich later said he was referring to the Republican Party’s unwillingness to attend such conferences.
Scott declined to comment on Gingrich’s NAACP remarks, saying he wanted to focus on what Gingrich said today.
Neither candidate mentioned President Obama today. Scott said he understood that the candidates didn’t mention the first African-American president because they should be talking about how to rebuild the country.
Perry, who often stresses the need to take faith into the public arena, urged the crowd to follow the example of King and live their faith in their daily lives.
“The idea that there are individuals out there who say, oh y’all, Sunday is for faith, Monday is for secular things. Oh no,” said Perry. “Monday through Sunday is to speak of values and all of us need to be engaged in the public arena speaking about the values that are important to us. Martin Luther King did that every day.”
Perry shared his decision to appoint the Wallace Jefferson, the descendant of a man sold as a slave in Texas, as the first African American justice to the state’s Supreme Court. Perry ultimately appointed Jefferson as the chief justice in the state, telling the crowd he wanted to show young African American children the opportunities available to them in life.
“That is the powerful message that we as Americans have the opportunity to tell day in and day out. That is our challenge as Americans. Don’t just talk to me. Show me, show me the power of Martin Luther King. Show me the power of what you believe in your heart, reflected every day in your values, the way you live your life, the way you talk, but more importantly the way you walk.”
Gingrich and Perry will campaign in the Myrtle Beach area throughout Monday before tonight’s FOX News Debate.