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Washingtonians Recall Memories of MLK

WI Web Staff Report | 8/17/2011, 4:43 p.m.

Mildred Purvis Williams, 92

I remember he was a smart and peaceful man. He was for equal rights he wanted everyone to enjoy life and to be brotherly-like. He wanted all of us to be able to sit down and eat together -- he believed in integration, and he was a Christian man and he believed that all people should be treated equally. He wanted us to sit in restaurants and hotels . . . he thought we should have the same rights that everyone else had. He was a man of nonviolence.

I remember Dr. King visited several places in North Carolina but I never saw him. But you knew about him because we had seen him on television. He seemed that close to us . . . like you could talk to him without any problem. He was just a man you could feel comfortable in talking with him.

Before, we had to go to colored restrooms, colored water fountains -- we'd go to the back door to get a hotdog from a restaurant. That even happened in hospitals (going to the back door). It made me feel very uncomfortable -- it hurt and you couldn't go to the water fountain -- Why? We wondered. So Dr. King was against all of that.

Virginia Ali, co-founder Ben's Chili Bowl

I heard about Dr. King for the first time in the '50's. I heard about this young black leader, but what really got my attention was the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, and then the March in Washington on March 6, 1963. Since he taught non-violence and worked hard for equality for all people he impacted the lives of everyone. He was very instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

My most poignant memory is about how such a gentle man died so violently and how we would no longer have our great leader for the African American community. After Dr. King's assassination, we [Ben's Chili Bowl] were the only business to remain open during the aftermath of his assassination although there was a curfew in effect.

I think the new monument to Dr. King is a great tribute to a great man!