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Countians remember Dr. King
By IRIS HERSH Staff writer
Chambersburg Public Opinion
The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a nation with his non-violent methods of fighting for equality for everyone.
He sought peace through dynamic leadership and speeches of hope for a better life -- regardless of a person's race, creed or color.
And King's message touched the lives of local residents.
From 1957 to 1968, King traveled more than 6 million miles, spoke over 2,500 times and wrote five books and numerous articles. He led a massive protest in Birmingham, Ala., and planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of African-Americans as voters, according to Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970.
He was arrested upwards of 20 time and assaulted at least four times, and awarded five honorary degrees, was named Man of the Year by Time Magazine in 1963 and became the symbolic leader of African Americans as well as a world figure.
King directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C. of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "I Have a Dream."
Helen Reed of Carlisle was part of that 1963 march on Washington that King led.
"I was about 21 and a member of the Carlisle NAACP," said Reed.
Numerous buses from across the country brought people of many races and ethnic backgrounds to Washington to participate in the march.
"As a young black person I thought we're finally going to get some recognition," Helen Reed said, adding she was so far away from King that she couldn't recognize him but could hear him speak and recognized his voice.
"He said his 'I had a dream' speech," Helen Reed said, "and I was honored to hear someone of his caliber speak in Washington and get recognition from government officials."
African-Americans then wanted a lot of things they couldn't have, she said, adding in 1963 it was better for African-Americans in Pennsylvania than in the South. Even after the speech in 1963, in Carlisle there were places African-Americans couldn't go, but we wanted to go," she said. "I felt more accepted by people after King's speech."
Helen Reed remembered going to a popular restaurant in Carlisle with a group of friends where she felt her group was treated poorly because there were some African-Americans in the group. When that happened she recalled King's speech and thought that things had to get better.
His speech and all that he did made her, her friends and her family feel proud to be African Americans, she said.
Reed's husband, the Rev. Walter Reed, will be the speaker at the 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr.community service at 4 p.m. Sunday in Zion Reformed United Church of Christ, 259 S. Main St., Chambersburg.
The Rev. Van Scott of John Wesley AME Zion Church, Chambersburg, saw King on a college campus and heard him speak.
"He had a vision to see this country as one individual and see everyone as the same, not different no matter what the color of their skin was," Scott said, adding a man should be judged by his character, that is what makes a person who he is. The speech caused Scott to look at people as not what they look like, but by their actions and thoughts.
"Since I became a minister I listen to what God is saying, and he doesn't see us in color but as men and women," Scott said, adding it's not people's color that makes them who they are.
Jenny Waters of Chambersburg and her husband, the late Donald "Mike" Waters, saw King at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, around 1965, Waters said. A featured speaker at a program, he spoke about his work with the civil rights movement.
"I remember that he was a very dynamic speaker and held my interest from start to finish," she said. Donald and Jenny Waters were involved with the Chambersburg Chapter of the NAACP at that time, and the Chambersburg Community Improvement Association, which had been chartered two years before, in 1963.
"He motivated us to press forward with trying to make conditions better for African-Americans in our community," Waters said. "He said that in order to make things better for our people, it would have to start at a grass roots level in local communities.
She feels King inspired local people to stand up for justice in the local community in a non-violent way with a local march.
In 1967, Waters recalled the CCIA and local NAACP chapter led a march to Borough Hall in Chambersburg and spoke to local councilmen about housing and employment for local African-Americans.
In early 1968, Eugene Rideout of Shippensburg heard King speak a high school he was attending in Brooklyn, N.Y.
As a high school student interested in politics, King's speech about youth getting involved in their government made a great impact on Rideout, he said. King told the group they were the young people of the future and to get involved in government, learn about the Constitution and what government is all about. Rideout said King inspired him to got involved in politics and he eventually ran for mayor of Chambersburg and commissioner of Franklin County.
"He brought everyone a long way and got people to realize we should be one nation, not a divided nation," Rideout said.
At 35, King was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified about being selected, he announced he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
Though his life ended tragically on April 4, 1968, at 39, his legacy has continued in his teachings of non-violence and in his dream that people be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Reprinted Courtesy of the Public Opinion Newspaper