Friday, January 24, 2014

JPX and JSP's father was Martin Luther King's waiter!

Memories of Dr. Martin Luther king at the CSS Luncheon 1963

     I remember being very excited in anticipation of seeing Dr. King close up since I had previously seen him speak in Hartford Conn and I was very impressed. I, and several of my roommates from Psi U., were part of the waiter staff at the CSS luncheon for Dr. King. The waiters were, of course, busy with the preparations and serving of the meal and by chance, I was actually the waiter who served Dr. King his meal. I have recounted that event to my children and grandchildren and it has remained in my memories as a significant and privileged life experience. We all knew at the time that Dr. King was important because he was in the news but none of us, of course, could possibly have appreciated the fame, historical significance, and the profound positive influence on humanity that lay ahead.

     As waiters, we were not in a position to ask Dr. King questions but we were able to observe and listen as shown in the picture you released (waiters are in the back of the room in white). I remember being impressed with Dr. King’s brightness and his calm and forceful delivery. Although there were many questions put to Dr. King during the luncheon, one question from a CSS student and Dr. King’s reply has always stayed with me. I do not remember the exact words but I do remember the exact content. A student asked Dr. King, in a somewhat challenging tone, whether he was concerned that his vocal advocacy for equal rights for Negroes (the term African American was not part of our vocabulary in 1963) would lead to a backlash. Dr. King answered without hesitation and in a very deliberate and strong tone that he was not concerned with a possible backlash because he was speaking for what was morally and ethically right. There was no response from the CSS student.

     My impression of that luncheon is that everyone was impacted by Dr. King’s brilliance and reasoned approach to solving a fundamental problem that we were all facing. This was in contrast and a relief to the fiery presentation by Malcom X who had also spoken at the Wesleyan campus.

     I hope these memories add to the information about Dr. King’s association with Wesleyan. Again, I am appreciative of any effort you can make to locate other pictures of the CSS luncheon.

Respectfully, John W., 65’

[JPX]  Our father is wearing white and he is sitting down in the middle of the far wall


DCD said...

This is SO cool, JPX! What an amazing story. So glad you shared it!

DCD said...

Two other observations:
One - Interesting that Dr. King is the only black man in the room.

And two - oh my god, you guys look like your Dad!

AC said...

Super cool!

Octopunk said...

This is an excellent story, and I love that picture.

Thanks for pointing that out, DCD. I actually didn't think of it. I imagine Dr. King had to talk to a lot of rooms full of white college boys.

Amazing to think that racial equality was discussed like this weird, new theory.