The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 07, 2020 1:00 am


Dream come true

Cooperation on resolution symbol of progress

Discussion and passage of resolutions are rarely the high point of a City Council meeting. Tuesday, there was a pleasant exception.

At the suggestion of new Councilwoman Michelle Chambers and veteran Councilman Russell Jehl, the council voted to ask the Fort Wayne Public Art Commision to consider ways to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.'s visit to Fort Wayne almost 57 years ago.

Of course, the city already has one memorial to King that can literally be called a glowing tribute – the bridge over the St. Marys River that is named for King and features his likeness, some eloquent quotes and an ever-changing display of colored lights.

But there is nothing that directly honors King's visit here on June 5, 1963. Clifford Buttram, vice president of Fort Wayne's Martin Luther King Jr. Club, noted that King's visit came during what was probably the most crucial year of the modern civil rights movement.

That King chose to speak in Fort Wayne just weeks after the Birmingham children's crusade and less than three months before the March on Washington made his visit here even more significant.

An overflow crowd jammed the old Scottish Rite building when King spoke and, as Chambers noted, a good portion of those attending were white.

“We at the time of his visit were still a very divided city,” Chambers said. “But on that day ... we all came together to hear Dr. King speak.”

Few would argue that all of our problems with racial inequities are behind us, even in 2020. But what if someone had predicted, that evening in 1963, that one day a Democratic councilwoman would team with a Republican councilman to introduce and unanimously pass a measure to honor King's speech and his prophetic vision of a better America?

Only King himself would have dared to dream something like that.

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