DID DR. KING ACTUALLY LIVE HIS DREAM AT A CERTAIN PLACE IN MONTGOMERY?
|THE FESTIVE RIVER FRONT AT MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA TODAY|
No it wasn't at the waterfront, it was pretty run down back then. Dr. King according to my tour guide lived in a nice but modest home very close to the down town business and government district. Just down the street from Doctor King lived a retired Air Force colonel, one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of WWII, the "Red Tails" as they were known, were tenacious African American fighter escorts for the bombing runs over occupied Europe and Germany. Dr. King's neighbor had stayed with the Air force after the war, lived through the through integration of the armed forces that started in 1948 and retired a colonel. This man's widow was still living when I visited Montgomery about a year and half ago and my tour guide seemed to know her. According to his story the Colonel frequently took Dr. King and occasionally his family out to the Maxwell Air Force Base to get away from the constant threats and stress of life after Dr. King became prominent in the civil rights movement. Montgomery at the time was one of the most strictly segregated towns in the Old South.
Why go to Maxwell Air Force Base to relax? Well the Air force had been integrated for about a decade and half , inside those military gates the KKK were kept out, the Colonel was a celebrated and ranking figure and had access to everything including the officers club. All around Dr. King and his family could observe young Americans in uniform of every race, creed, color and religion working, and studying, and playing together. In the officers club which still stands, but is now open to all ranks, the Doctor and the Colonel could relax in walnut paneled surrounding with other men of accomplishment of all races and no one blinked an eye at the color of anyone's skin . The contrast of Maxwell Air Force Base behind the gate, and the streets of Montgomery must have been startling. For the African Americans who could gain access, crossing that gate into Maxwell must have felt like shutting a door on hell. The "dream" that Dr. King spoke of in his most famous speech may have actually been a projection of a reality that he actually saw and experienced. That real experience may have been what filled him with such confidence in his "dream". He didn't get there with us, but just as he predicted, it did come. Montgomery is a very different place today. Maxwell Air Force Base is still there however, and if our enemies ever let up enough to allow regular public access to military installations again Maxwell ought to have a spot on the Civil Rights history tour. Maxwell Air Force Base was probably where Dr. King actually touched the dream.