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Dr. Sonnie Hereford III and Dr. Kermit Carter start the program 'Keeping His Dream Alive: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.' with a memory march at Calhoun Community College on Thursday.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Dr. Sonnie Hereford III and Dr. Kermit Carter start the program "Keeping His Dream Alive: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." with a memory march at Calhoun Community College on Thursday.

MLK march celebrates civil rights

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Tim Williams tried to ignore the blustery 18-mph wind that chilled Thursday's Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative march at Calhoun Community College.

But Williams, a Calhoun student, didn't complain, saying the wind was nothing compared to what King and others endured during the civil rights era.

"I started talking with some of the older men, and they told me what it was like during their protest marches (in the 1960s)," said Williams of Trinity. "That just made me forget the cold."

Only about 20 people participated in the half-mile walk from the Aerospace Training Center to the Chasteen Student Center, but Black Student Alliance President LeKeia Crutcher of Athens said she wasn't disappointed in the turnout.

Attendance at the program that followed also was lighter than in past years and consisted mainly of instructors.

"I'm very excited that we actually pulled this off," Crutcher said. "I didn't think anyone would show up (for the march) since this was our first time. Hopefully, next year we'll have a bigger group."

Crutcher was particularly pleased that several white students participated.

Curtis Gardner of Athens said he participated as a tribute to King and he thought it important to hear stories from the civil rights era.

"It makes me feel like I'm
giving back something to the community and we're keeping the spirit of that era alive so those stories don't disappear," he said.

Calhoun math instructor Earnest Williams delivered King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and Dr. Sonnie Hereford talked about meeting King twice.

Hereford picked King up at Huntsville Airport on March 19, 1962.

Hereford said King spoke at Oakwood College, the only sufficiently large venue that admitted blacks.

Hereford said they couldn't use Alabama A&M University because it is a state school and Gov. George Wallace wouldn't allow such a meeting there.

"Forty-five years ago, I wouldn't have been able to speak to you as I am today," Hereford said.

Hereford later had dinner with King at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting in October 1964.

Hereford said that during the 1960s, Huntsville didn't have any black policemen, firefighters or bank tellers. All of the judges and most of the lawyers were white, and even the juries were white.

"(Black) students today couldn't imagine walking into Burger King and having the manager call the police," he said, "or walking into McDonald's and having the manager pull a .45 automatic handgun on you."

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