In the summer of 1965 I worked for an architectural firm in Philadelphia (Vincent G. Kling) whose offices were on Corinthian Avenue. After work one day, I noticed a crowd gathered about a quarter of a block away where Corinthian Avenue terminates at Girard College, which then was a school for white orphaned boys. I strolled over and joined the mostly African Americans who were listening to protest speeches delivered from a platform complete with a microphone and loudspeakers. An impressive college structure in the Roman style rose up in the background, its classical columns dominating the scene. I found one man’s speech unusually compelling – he had a sonorous voice that one might hear in a church and he delivered his thoughts with a rolling, mesmerizing cadence. The black man’s message of equality was enthralling, irresistible, and delivered with such sincerity and moral power that I had no desire to depart even though I did not feel totally comfortable in this north Philadelphia neighborhood that was, for white people, a bit sketchy.
I’m not sure when I learned that the speaker had been Martin Luther King, Jr. — but it might have been that evening on the news.
I did not go to the march on Washington but I should have. I feel particularly lucky and privileged, however, to have been in Dr. King’s presence for that short time, even if by accident. Many decades later, my son, Aaron, sent me a photo of the crowd stretching out in front of Dr. King. I searched the white faces hoping I might find evidence that I attended the gathering. Low and behold to the right of the white guy standing somewhat elevated above those around him and holding a camera is another white guy, his head level with the photographer’s and slightly tilted to one side. That’s me with my tie loosened. I’m wearing sunglasses. It was a moment in history I will long treasure.