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The way we were: 1963



In 1963, the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America participated in the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. On their way to the mall, the group posed in front of the Martin Luther statue at Luther Place Memorial Church.


Comments

Melvin G Swoyer

Melvin G Swoyer

Posted at 4:26 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/30/2008

I was there 30 yards to the left of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. Skipping classes at American University, I took a public bus to Constitution Avenue where I got off and started walking toward the Lincoln Memorial. I was born in Washington, D.C. and had graduated from Oxon Hill High School (Maryland) in June 1960. Suddenly the crowd started cheering loudly as the Mississippi delegation marched by. In the excitement of the moment, I jumped off the sidewalk and came face to face with a national guardsman soldier. He was shocked to see me because we both graduated from high school together and were White. He said, "Stop, Mel," and I replied, "These people are for freedom and so am I," as I ignored him and walked with the Mississippi delegation another 50 yards and we stopped at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I sat on the grassy area to Dr. King's left as he faced the massive crowd. His words, "All of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing ... 'Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last" still ring in my ears today. I will never forget August 28, 1963. I have been a pastor for 35 years. We still need to work for civil rights, racial equality, and the rights of all people today. The Rev. Melvin G. Swoyer, retired ELCA pastor, Pflugerville, TX.

 

Frank O. Klein

Frank O. Klein

Posted at 4:40 pm (U.S. Eastern) 9/9/2008

I was a delegate of the ALC to the Lutheran World Federation held in Helsinki, Finland in July, 1963.  It was announced there that Dr. Martin Luther King would lead a March on Washingyon in September.  I decided then that I would join the March.  Returning home, I announced to my congregation the decision I had made and invited any who would like to join me.  At that time I was the pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Suitland, MD.  Two men of the congregation offered to join me.  Another one told me: "You are making a big mistake."  I have a well preserved picture of the Lutheran group where I am holding a sign, "LUTHERAN CHURCH" with the caption, "Pastor Tells Congregation of Reasons for Joining March."  One who joined me in the March was Retired Professor of Capital University, Bill Wright.  We call each on on every anniversay of the March.  Another man told me years after the March that he was sorry he hadn't joined me. And my son, who was 18 at the time tells me that I wouldn't let him go.  Pastor Emeritus, Hope Lutheran Church, Port St. Lucie, FL



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