WASHINGTON - On the 60th Anniversary of the ‘March on Washington,’ FOX 5 spoke one-on-one with one of the women who made it all happen. It’s not a side of history you get to hear or see often.
A longtime Silver Spring resident and Montgomery Hills Baptist Church trustee was once a member of Dr. Martin Luther King’s executive team.
Her name is Mrs. Willie King. There is no relation – coincidentally, she married a man whose last name is also "King."
King did not go to the first March on Washington, working hard behind the scenes to make sure it would happen. She also did not attend the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, taking part in other events. However, she does have an incredible story marking the moment, including the first time she heard what we know today as the iconic, "I Have a Dream" speech.
"I said, ‘That’s not the speech! What is he talking about? What’s this?’ You know, I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness all that work that went into this speech and listen to him!’ And everybody in the room, we were at the office, going what are you talking about? And I said, ‘That’s not the speech!’ You know, but then what he was saying was so great, I’m thinking well, glad that he actually changed," said King.
King, whose maiden name is Willie Mackey, tells FOX 5 she started as a secretary and then became an administrative assistant to Dr. King’s executive assistant – the team based out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Atlanta, Georgia headquarters.
She recalled being required to spend several days, non-stop, in one room until she completed typing the Civil Rights leader’s "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
When it came to the first March on Washington, King says she and others spent weeks organizing how to bus thousands of people from the South, booking their stays at area churches. She also recalled having to keep redoing Dr. King’s key speech as all the major civil rights leaders involved kept giving their different edits. The FBI was also censoring the speech.
This was all done in the 1960s when there was no "copy and paste" on a computer. King says she was not allowed to use white-out. The page had to be redone.
Dr. King ended up giving a speech not exactly from the original script, but one history marks a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement.
King, looking back on that time and where this country is now, told FOX 5, "It is very disappointing to me because Dr. King’s message was non-violence and to see the status of this country now on violence, it’s disheartening. I could never have believed, growing up in the South even, that there would be so much hatred. So much meanness."
"I think people listen to speeches and don’t hear. I think if people heard Dr. King’s message of non-violence and love, it would make a difference," she added.
King spoke about how she feels there is a big difference between listening and people actually hearing and thinking about what was said. She looks back on their work with pride, knowing the legislative changes that came from the Civil Rights Movement. She also spoke about how terrifying and traumatic it was to face violence and attacks from the Ku Klux Klan as the team worked.
She hopes all their efforts and Dr. King’s death are not lost on those today.
Watch the full interview with Willie King below.