John Shearer: Anniversary Of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - by John Shearer

After having written two stories on the Chattanooga connections to the 1963 March on Washington event and having followed the 50th anniversary celebration plans, I decided to head up to Lookout Mountain’s Point Park Wednesday.

Because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had included the phrase “Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee” in his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 gathering, a special bell-ringing ceremony to commemorate the event was held next to the New York Peace Monument.

It was part of a nationwide bell-ringing ceremony.

While I was already somewhat familiar with the 1963 event, I have enjoyed learning more of the details in recent days. This has included the fact that Dr. King deviated from his original remarks and included his “I have a dream” lines after singer Mahalia Jackson encouraged him from the platform to talk about “the dream.”

She had heard him use those words in a speech in Detroit several weeks earlier and liked them.

I had also wondered about the park ranger who was shown in numerous photographs and videos standing next to Dr. King during his speech. I learned this week that he was a 25-year-old former Marine named Gordon “Gunny” Gundrum.

Obviously not a high-ranking ranger at the time, he recalled that he was not sure how he was assigned that visible position. He also revealed that he was supposed to be given some relief during that day, but his replacement never came, so he had to stand there the entire time.

As a result, he became one of the iconic faces of that historic event

Later a New York law enforcement official, he said in one media interview that the event taught him to always treat people with a sense of fairness.

One other story was the fact the march was held on a Wednesday instead of the weekend because some government leaders hoped having it during the week would keep the crowds down and prevent any additional problems. Of course, the event ended up being very peaceful.

Anyway, all those interesting stories made me want to be on Lookout Mountain on another Wednesday 50 years later.

It was a brief-but-touching event, as several dozen black and white Chattanoogans and others gathered around the New York Peace Monument.

Joyce Terrell, whose mother had been involved in the 1963 march plans while in Virginia, was introduced, and then Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park officials began reading part of Dr. King’s roughly 17-minute speech. A few of the Orchard Knob Elementary students also soon took turns reading brief lines.

The section of the speech that was recited was primarily the part about the “I have a dream,” but the speakers did not go all the way to the end.

The students then led the singing of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” which includes the closing line – “let freedom ring.”

Then some small hand bells that had been distributed to the students and a few others were rung.

Some of the participants who were caught up in the historical anniversary might have wished a large bell was there for everyone to take turns ringing loudly, but it was not. This might have given the experience more of a literal and proverbial mountaintop experience – to quote a line from one of Dr. King’s other speeches.

However, after the formal program had ended and many people – including me – were already heading to their vehicles, Orchard Knob principal Lafrederick Thirkill gave the event a more booming exclamation point.

A talented musician and music leader, he apparently took it upon himself to lead extemporaneously those gathered in the singing of the civil rights song, “We Shall Overcome.”

And when he did, freedom finally rang from Lookout Mountain in a loud enough manner befitting the 1963 event and golden anniversary remembrance.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


Dade County And The Arts - “Show, Don’t Tell” And Cold War Politics

Show, don’t tell. This is a good rule as demonstrated by its inclusion in the forthcoming (we hope) Rules for Revising Poetry and How to Break Them by KB Ballentine, Finn Bille and John C. Mannone. This rule is also what the esteemed former president of Chattanooga Writers Guild, Ray Zimmerman, has repeatedly called “so much pabulum,” meaning, we assume, a stupid rule.  ... (click for more)

Art Exhibit Features African Wildlife Photography

An exhibit featuring nature images by Braam Oberholster, School of Business professor of Southern Adventist University, will open at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the John C. Williams Art Gallery and will run through April 4. The exhibit, “Moments of Providence,” features professional photographs of the African wildlife. “I record art. Often the recording is done at a 2500th of a ... (click for more)

Wintry Mix Possible For Chattanooga Area

A wintry mix is possible for the Chattanooga area beginning Sunday. However, there could be little or no snow and ice unless temperatures dip. Here is the latest forecast from the National Weather Service: MIXED WINTRY PRECIPITATION EXPECTED SUNDAY NIGHT AND MONDAY MORNING... A MIX OF RAIN AND SNOW IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN FALLING ACROSS THE SOUTHERN CUMBERLAND PLATEAU...THE ... (click for more)

Man At Homeless Camp On Chestnut Street Charged With Trying To Set Fire To Another Man

A man at a homeless camp on Chestnut Street has been charged with trying to set fire to another man at the camp. Richard Warren "Trey" Erwin, 40, is charged with aggravated arson. Police were called to the 2200 block of Chestnut at 12:40 a.m. Earlier, Michael Nye and Alisa Buckels had called for an ambulance. They were checked out at Erlanger Hospital for inhalation injuries. ... (click for more)

Black History Month Hero - Theodore McGraw (Kidd) AKA "Pongee" - And Response

I grew up in "Old St. Elmo" on 39th Street behind the Incline. As a child I remember my older brother "Pongee" as being my hero. This month of February being Black History Month, I cannot think of a better person to be honored than my late older brother, Theodore McGraw (Kidd) aka "Pongee" of St. Elmo (Gamble Town). Growing up without my father, Theodore was always available ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Evaluators Earn $11.70

A number of curious job notices, under the heading of ‘General Labor,’ have appeared on various Craigslists, that free Internet portal where you can find everything from a used lawn tractor, guitar lessons or even a saucy Saturday night date. This week on the Charlotte, N.C., Craigslist, for example, there appeared an offer to become a “reader/evaluator” for a company known as Measurement ... (click for more)