When he heard that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been killed in Memphis, Dr. Milton Reid was in his study at Norfolk’s New Calvary Baptist Church, where he was the Pastor.
Reid, who is now deceased, told a reporter for the Guide over a decade ago that he was to host King at his home the following Friday.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, Reid said he was putting final touches on plans he was to present to King about the “Poor’s People Campaign,” where thousands of people would converge on Washington from around the country to bring attention to poverty in America.
King was in Memphis supporting sanitation workers in acquiring better working conditions when he died. He had shifted from an agenda of political and voting rights to economic rights for Black and White people.
Despite King’s murder, the march took place and at one point, participants streamed through Norfolk greeted by Reid, city officials (including Mayor Roy Martin) and activists supporting it.
Dr. King was President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which organized the event and Reid was a leader of the group in Norfolk.
Two years earlier, Dr. King had given the keynote sermon at Dr. Reid’s installation as Pastor at New Calvary.
The venue for a speech King delivered during that trip to Norfolk is today the site of the Harrison Opera House. But in 1962, King spoke at the old Norfolk Arena, the city’s largest event venue . King also visited the campus of Norfolk State University.
In 2018, fifty years after his untimely death, the Virginia Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission is remembering his legacy and his influence in Virginia in a series of Community Conversations held in each of the locations across the state that Dr. King visited.
The Commission has been joining community leaders, religious leaders, historians, educators, and members of the community to reexamine Dr. King’s time in the Commonwealth.
Also, the forums are to reflect on King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” in that locality today, and ask, as Dr. King did in his final book, “Where do we go from here?” All events are free and open to the public.
The eighth Beloved Community Conversation in the series was held September 26 in the Harvey Library Meeting Room at Hampton University.
A similar gathering will be held in Norfolk on October 30 at New Calvary Baptist Church at 800 E. Virginia Beach Blvd., according to the Commission, starting at 6 p.m.
Mayor Kenny Alexander and Delegate Jay Jones will bring greetings.
Confirmed panelists are Father James Curran, Rector, The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate; Joe Dillard, President, Norfolk Branch NAACP; and Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Professor of History, Norfolk State University. Other panelists will be named later.
During the event in Hampton, Commission Chair Senator Jennifer L. McClellan moderated a panel discussion of community persons that included Gaylene Kaynoton, President of the Hampton Branch NAACP; Attorney Carter Phillips of the Hampton Unity Commission; Rev. Dr. Calvin Sydnor, III, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Aman Tune, Senior Political Science Major at Hampton University; Dr. Sharon Campbell Waters, President and CEO of Innovative Grant Concepts, Inc. and member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery during Dr. King’s tenure as pastor; and Robert Watson, Assistant Professor of History at Hampton University.
The Hampton program followed the first seven events in the series held in Richmond, Charlottesville, Farmville, Williamsburg, Danville, Suffolk, and Lynchburg, which were recorded and are archived on the Commission’s website.
The roundtables are part of the Commission’s King in Virginia project, which is working to research, compile, and exhibit information on Dr. King’s visits to Virginia, to be made publicly and permanently accessible online.
On October 23, the ninth Beloved Community Conversation will be held at the First Church of Newport News starting a 6 p.m.
Other events will be held at Dinwiddie, Hopewell and Petersburg. Details of each event will be announced as finalized.
The event in Dinwiddie was the last one added to the list. In 1962, King visited the city as part of his “People to People Program.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, a statutory and bipartisan agency of the Virginia General Assembly, was created in 1992 by the General Assembly to honor the legacy of Dr. King through educational, historical and cultural programs, public policy analysis, and public discourse on contemporary issues.
In addition to leading the Commonwealth’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, the Commission is also constructing the Emancipation Proclamation and Freedom Monument on Brown’s Island in Richmond, dedicated to the contributions of African-American Virginians in the ongoing fight for freedom and civil rights. For more on the Commission’s work, and for updates on the King in Virginia project, visit mlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov.
By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide