Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Friday, February 21, 2014
Dr. King meeting lasts a lifetime

By Ivan Maisel

If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., enjoyed college football, he kept it to himself. It is quite possible that he couldn't bring himself to cheer for the state universities in his native Georgia or his adopted home of Alabama, given their opposition to everything he ever stood for.

There was the one time that the Crimson Tide unknowingly lent the civil rights movement a hand. Late in 1964, a judge in Selma, Ala., issued an injunction forbidding the discussion of racial issues at any gathering of three or more persons.

(Seriously. In America. In my home state. In my lifetime.)

According to Taylor Branch, who wrote a three-volume biography of Dr. King, when Alabama played Texas in the 1965 Orange Bowl, Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark left Selma, the county seat, to attend the game.

In his absence, Dr. King convened a meeting of 700 people at Brown Chapel. To thunderous cheers, he challenged the injunction in a speech in which he said, "Our cry to the state of Alabama is a simple one. Give us the ballot!"

In Branch's seminal work, published over 18 years and spanning more than 2,300 pages, there is virtually no other mention of college football that involves his subject. There is, however, at least one other occasion on which Dr. King and his work intersected with the sport.

To continue reading, click here.