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


Chattanooga Speaks Presents Panel Discussion On Race, Community And Culture

Chattanooga Speaks, founded by Main Street Innovations, invites the public to join a free discussion panel to be held at The Camp House on Tuesday from 6-8:30 p.m. about race, culture and community. "Events across the nation, and our city, are causing communities to come together and be solution orientated in the areas of race and equality. Not all people are doing this in a ... (click for more)

Weekly Roadway Activity Report for TDOT Region 2, July 21-27

Weekly Roadway Activity Report for TDOT Region 2 (Parts of East and Middle Tennessee) July 21 – July 27 Construction Projects Maintenance / Regionwide / On-Call / Multi-County Contracts Bledsoe County, SR-30 slide repair project near log mile 7.5:   Work on this project continues.  The contract includes excavating, stabilizing and rebuilding the road ... (click for more)

Man Who Spent Most Of His 20s Behind Bars Headed To Federal Prison For 58 Months At Age 30

A man who spent most of his 20s in Georgia state prison is headed to federal prison at age 30. Leighton L. Dunn on Friday was sentenced by Judge Travis McDonough to serve 58 months for being a felon in possession of a gun during a carjacking. Dunn told the judge, "I was released in March (2015) and was doing good, then I fell in that same rut. Before I knew it I was caught ... (click for more)

Man Arrested For Confronting Southside Grocery Employee With Gun

Brandon Jamal Appleberry, 27, was arrested on Monday after an altercation with an employee at Southside Grocery on West 38 th Street, officers said. Marty Witt, 44, told police that the suspect confronted him with a gun in his hand. Officers said security video from the store clearly showed Appleberry arguing with several people outside while holding a gun. The defendant ... (click for more)

Lock Her Up?

It's concerning that the Republican Party elite attending the recent convention would indict, convict and jail a political opponent, when the FBI found no criminal intent to compromise national security and no other law violations were found. This "lock her up" mob mentality is third world, over-the-edge behavior that has no place in a country based on the rule-of-law, where ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Double Travesties

Back when we were kids the old guys taught us how to throw a one-two punch. It’s pretty impressive if you do it right, which is to jab your left fist into the thug’s face and then, as though it was a symphony, complete the combination as you deliver a powerful right cross to the same nose. If the thug has a gun, it doesn’t work as well. But, boy, did our community ever get clobbered ... (click for more)