USF professor honored ahead of MLK anniversary

August 21, 2013 9:59:30 AM PDT
Next week will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Two people who were there are sharing their memories and one of them is receiving a special award at the University of San Francisco Tuesday night.

The man being honored is now a professor at USF, but back then he was a 32-year-old close advisor to Martin Luther King. The other person is a minister and local activist. Both of the men are now in their 80s and have vivid memories of the march.

It's been described as both a protest and a celebration. The March on Washington on August 28, 1963 was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.

Carolyn: "What did it feel like to be in the middle of that?"

"It felt like something was not only going to happen, but that I was in it. It made me realize that I was about to take part of something that was going really make history," Glide Memorial Church Rev. Cecil Williams said.

Now 83-years-old, Williams says it was thrilling to be in the crowd of 250,000 moved by the now famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

"Once the tone had been set and the message had begun, I said, that's it. I'm going to San Francisco now," he said.

Williams had just been assigned to Glide Memorial Church and was moving that month to San Francisco.

A photo he provided shows the then 33-year-old challenging unequal education for black students in the city.

Williams says his activism which endures to this day was inspired by Dr. King.

Standing on that stage near Dr. King was Dr. Clarence Jones, MLK's close friend and legal advisor. He even helped draft part of the famous speech.

"When Dr. King spoke on August 28, 1963, he was speaking as the moral compass of America. He was speaking to the conscience of America," Jones said.

Jones is now a professor at USF and will receive an award Tuesday night for his work with Dr. King and dedication to the civil rights movement.

"I want to celebrate the dream and I also want to have the chance to kick butt when necessary to those who are interfering with the dream," Jones said.

A number of dignitaries have been present at the event, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Jones is going to be presented with a hero award by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.


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