Special Report: Retracing MLK’s tour of Hampton Roads


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — How much do you know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact here in Hampton Roads? 

Today the tributes to King are all around. Retracing the many times during the 1950s and 60s that he came to the Tidewater region is no easy task. 

But to commemorate 50 years since his passing last year, the Virginia General Assembly MLK Memorial Commission took a trip around the Commonwealth. It was all to show King’s love of community and connection to a cause that he knew was greater than himself.  

On September 27, 1956, King graced the pulpit of the Memorial Chapel at what was then Hampton Institute to share “The Montgomery Story.”

Pictures of all the students clamoring around for a few minutes of King’s time give a glimpse of their enthusiasm to see the activist up close.  

He made stops at the First Baptist Church of Newport News on Wickham Avenue in 1958, and again in 1962 drawing huge crowds for a speech on “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” and then the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Fund for Freedom Drive.  

And just two days before that second appearance there he was at the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg where he delivered another powerful speech. 

That’s the historic site on Scotland Street we’ve taken you to before after they restored the Freedom Bell that fell silent six years before King arrived. He of course dedicated to letting freedom ring.  

Last year we also introduced you to members of a family who had just recently found a picture of their mother with Dr. King in Suffolk’s Peanut Park where he came in 1963 to rally people to become registered voters and raise money for the upcoming March on Washington. 

So many stories we want to make sure are never forgotten and each year there are fewer people who can tell them firsthand.

But after Dr. King gave a rousing speech at City Arena in Norfolk in 1961 condemning the treatment of African Americans as second class citizens, he made a second trip to the Mermaid City in 1966. And 10 On Your Side’s Anita Blanton had the privilege of speaking to Mrs. Marian Reid, whose family was a part of the reason why.

“My husband was being installed as the pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in 1966,” said Reid.  

Dr. King met her and her husband in Alabama during the bus boycott in the 50s. In 1966, the man who Reverend Milton Reid found himself jailed beside time and time again pushing for change, came to preach his installation service in Hampton Roads.

“Dr. King talked a lot about love,” said Reid. “Loving your brother and the people of God. He was such a personable person. He wanted everybody to be able to touch somebody. He was coming through different places in Virginia trying to get the message across that we should love more and not let hatred get the best of us.”

Her family, this region and state certainly touched by the presence of this one life.  Because in the words of Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

In 2019, the Virginia General Assembly MLK Memorial Commission is focused on Richmond.

Their goal is to build a Freedom and Emancipation Monument there by December. It’s intended to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation by showing those who fought for freedom both before and after slaves were free, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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