George Raveling & Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr
- Crossing Paths at the March on Washington -
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos
Each year the first week of April brings to a conclusion the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) while also marking the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Interestingly enough, as we reflect on the amazing life and ministry of the Rev Dr King, we find there is a unique connection with collegiate basketball in the person of Hall of Fame coach George Raveling. Therefore, recounting the story behind the life paths of a pioneering basketball coach and a Nobel Prize winning Civil Rights leader intersecting at a unique moment in history is especially timely during the first week of April.
In August 1963, several days before the March on Washington, Raveling was having dinner at a friend's home in Claymont, DE. The father of Raveling's friend, encouraged both young men to attend the upcoming event while providing them travel money and the use of one of his cars to drive to Washington, DC. Upon their arrival, Raveling and his friend volunteered to serve as security guards thereby ending up standing a few feet away from the Rev Dr King on the podium at the Lincoln Memorial. As Rev Dr King was nearing the close of his historic speech, the famed Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was heard in the background saying "tell 'em about the dream, Martin, tell 'em about the dream." Ms Jackson was familiar with this theme as she had heard King talk about this in his previous speeches at Selma and Detroit. At this point, in a moment of inspiration, Rev Dr King went off script -- (i.e., the "I Have A Dream" passage is NOT in the original typewritten hard copy of the speech he had in his hands when speaking at the Lincoln Memorial) -- by ad-libbing the "I Have A Dream" part because he realized his prepared remarks were not fully rising to the spirit of the occasion. This spontaneous addition was the signature portion of a magnificent speech. As Rev Dr King took the papers with his prepared remarks from the podium, he came face to face with Mr Raveling, who asked him "Dr King, can I have that?" King handed the speech to Raveling just moments before a throng of people came between the two men. Raveling folded up the papers and kept them on his person as the March on Washington concluded.
It should be noted that several hundred copies of King's prepared speech had been distributed to reporters, but ALL of these copies -- except for the one King himself had at the podium and then gave to Raveling -- had an official stamp. The only markings on this document are the underline and asterisk Raveling later inserted to indicate where King had deviated from his prepared remarks.
In the decades that have followed, Mr Raveling has had a wonderful life and career in mentoring others through a Hall of Fame basketball coaching career. When sharing his remembrance of this amazing moment in time, Raveling is humbled to be the keeper of such a precious document. He continues to help others prepare for life by teaching them to be ready for the right moment that can come at any time! The pursuit of the Dream expressed by Rev Dr King continues through the life and works of George Raveling and reminds all of us to always strive to be at our personal best.