TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Remembering Martin Luther King

Remembering Martin Luther King

TELECOM Digest Editor (
Mon, 16 Jan 2006 15:17:49 EST

For an Ancient Old, Brain-Diseased man, in my younger pre-BA days (it
is even getting hard now for me to remember, but there _was_ a time I
was a whole, healthy person, prior to November 25, 1999 which is known
by me as Black Thursday, the evening of my (B)rain (A)neurysm and the end
of my life as I remember it). In those days, at least until the
middle-late 1980's I was, while not 'well-to-do' wealthy, I was at
least 'comfortable', associated with the 'proper' kind of people, did
the 'proper' kind of activities, was well-known, at least by my group
of people, and over the course of a half-century had the distinct
honor of meeting at least two relatively famous persons in real

One of these famous persons was Ms. Ayn Rand, an author whom I met in
high school, and had the opportunity to have dinner with in a small
intimate group (three of us). The other 'famous person' in my life was
Dr. Martin Luther King, and by extension, his wife Coretta Scott
King. Again, it was a small dinner party, in this instance there were
eight of us, as I recall, present. We can discuss Ms. Rand another
time, but today is the commemoration of Dr. King, so I will mention
that for now.

In 1963-67, Dr. King frequently came around Chicago. I recall his
visits _always_ included meetings with Civil Rights activists in the
town and he would always speak to civic and religious groups. One
weekend marked the fortieth anniversary of the employment of the first
black person the Chicago Public Library. Although *her* name escapes
me at the moment, it was on that date in the 1920's she had been hired
by the Library as the first black (anything) at CPL, in the children's
book department as a librarian. Prior to that, they only had white
people employed there (librarians, clerks, custodians, etc).

On that Saturday afternoon, Dr. and Mrs. King had an appearance at CPL
to read at one of the children's story hour programs the Library
always had in those days. Prior to that lady, the Library just did not
have any black people employed by them in any capacity. Sadly, in
those days, it was something that just 'was not done'. Some of you
older people will probably know what I am referring to. In those days
the Library occupied the block on Michigan Avenue between Washington
and Randolph Streets.

Actually, I got to meet Dr. King three times that weekend although to
have personal, private conversation only once. Then on Sunday morning,
he had been invited by the Trustees of the Chicago Temple to preach at
their Sunday morning service. I saw him there also, but only in

Later that same day, my roomate (I lived in Hyde Park at the time)
told me the exciting news that Dr. King was going to be preaching at
Chicago Sunday Evening Club that evening, and he asked me why didn't I
go along with him? My roomate, Roy Anderson was organist for the
Sunday Evening Club in their weekly religious meetings at Orchestra
Hall. I do recall that while normally the Hall had several hundred
people most weeks for the Sunday Evening Club program, this week the
place was absolutely packed with over 2500 people in the audience.
Another person present in the audience that Sunday evening was a teen-
age girl named Hillary Rodham, from Park Ridge, Illinois. That evening
she was there with the youth group from her church; she was no one
special then; nor would she be until later she married Bill Clinton.
Dr. King gave one of his usually eloquent sermons, but the real treat
was yet to come.

After the service, Roy came to me and mentioned that _he_ had been
invited by Dr. Hansen (President of CSEC and chairman of its Board of
Trustees) to go to dinner. It was the custom at CSEC for one or more
of the Trustees to take the speaker of the evening out for dinner
afterward and since Joe (Dr. Hansen) had invited him and told him to
bring along _one_ guest, he was inviting me. We all retired over to
Miller's Pub, a rather famous eatery a block away from Orchestra Hall,
on Adams Street near Michigan Avenue. The group of eight of us
included Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King, Dr. Hansen and his
wife, one of the other trustees; also Francis Gregory (office/business
administrator for the CSEC), Roy Anderson and myself. Actually, Roy
and I (the commoners in the group) had our 'inside connection' through
Fran Gregory who had his 'inside connection' through his employment in
the CSEC office. Roy, Fran and myself were all of the same pursuasion
if you follow my drift.

Following a delicious dinner and enough drinks (before, during and
after the meal) to make me a little bit woozy, Dr. King gave us all
another impromptu sermon there on the spot at Millers. Although as a
Young Man, assured of myself and already writing my occassional
Editor's Notes, it seemed most appropriate this time to simply stifle
myself and listen. Finally, well after midnight, it was time to
depart. Joe (Dr. Hansen) suggested that Roy and I go outside and fetch
a cab to take Dr. and Mrs. King back to their hotel (he usually stayed
at the Palmer House when visiting Chicago); the others split for their
own cars, Roy and I came back with a Yellow Cab for the Kings, rode
with them to the Palmer House, then we retained the cab to take us
back to our own apartment in Hyde Park. I do not think I will ever
forget what a grand evening (entire weekend, actually) that was.

It apparently was not a bad weekend for King either. He always got
_good money_ for speaking to white liberals; Sunday Evening Club paid
him a five hundred dollar honorarium, and Chicago Temple paid him the
same amount (1960's money, of course), and we were not the only ones:
the evening's program had an announcement that "Dr. and Mrs. King's
personal expenses during this trip to Chicago have been underwritten
with a gift from the Illinois Bell Telephone Company." But all I know
is I was _thrilled_ to meet him in person.

About a month or two later, I was downtown on business and stopped in
to see Fran Gregory in his office at CSEC to say hello. Their
offices were at Van Buren and Michigan in the McCormick Building. I
inquired about Dr. King, and asked if he was scheduled to return the
next season to speak again. Fran got sort of a sour look on his face
and said, "The Trustees decided against it; they said he was just
'too controversial'". Always very eloquent, and never one to speak
against his employer, the Trustees, Fran sort of hinted that they
had been visited by the Chicago Police 'Red Squad' with a 'suggestion'
that Dr. King was not welcome in Chicago again.

Either one or two years later (in April, 1968) King was assassinated
in Memphis, TN. In those days, I had a part time job as a tutor for
the teenage son of a very wealthy black surgeon, named Dr. Barnes. I
went to their home three evenings per week to help his son with his
school work. Mrs. Barnes had the television set on in her room when
the news bulletin came over the air that King had been gunned down in
his motel room in Memphis. She came rushing into her son's room (where
he and I were working) to tell us about it. She instructed me, "wait
until Dr. Barnes gets home from the hospital, I will have him drive
you back home." Her fifteen year old son, as naive and innocent and
apolitical as he could be, like many rich kids in those days, asked
his mother, "But why should he wait? He usually just walks down 47th
Street to the el station." Mrs. Barnes just looked at her son and
said, "I think Mister Townson knows why he should remain in safety
with us."

Dr. Barnes arrived home shortly after that and took me home. The same
night and the following two nights, riots broke out all over Chicago.
The United States Fifth Army (which was headquartered in Chicago) had
tanks in our street, waiting in the parking lot of the Museum of
Science and Industry, across the steet from my house, and National
Guard troops everywhere. Much of the west side of Chicago was in
flames. By that point, I guess even the rich fifteen year old black
son of a wealthy surgeon knew what was going on.

Between all that unrest in 1968, the riots in April regards King and
again in August, when the Democrats had their riot -- err, convention
in Chicago -- I do think the Chicago Police were in their glory,
cracking open heads, spying on peaceful citizen groups, etc. How
fortuitous it is that the discussion on 'domestic spying' is in the
Digest right now. There is nothing new about police (my generic term
for much of government) getting into things they have no business
getting involved in. We need more Dr. King-like people and Ayn Rand-like
people in government.


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