Martin Luther King, Jr. Grosse Pointe speech replayed in same school 50 years later

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Most metro Detroiters know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s big visit in the summer of 1963.

But many people forget that the Civil Rights icon spoke to a sold-out crowd of 2,700 inside Grosse Pointe South High School on March 14, 1968 just weeks before he was assassinated. 

The school remembered that historic moment Monday afternoon.

"Those were some very challenging times," said Greg Bowens, NAACP president, Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods Branch. "The Vietnam War was raging and Dr. King had begun to talk more about poverty and how poverty is the great equalizer in racial discussions."

Several people were on hand today, including some who were actually in the same gymnasium for that speech 50 years ago, visiting to hear it once again.

"I do remember just his presence, I thought was amazing," said Ruth Zinn said. "To think that we were here with this remarkable person."

"It was filled as I remember, we sat up in the balcony and it was a very exciting speech," said Frank Zinn. 

"I found Dr, King to be a very thoughtful man," said Gordon Morelan. "When he pulled up in the parking lot I opened the door, and he was under somebody's legs so he was hiding. I helped him out of the car and he thanked me and shook my hand. 

"It means to me that the way you treat people even with small things can make a huge difference for a long, long time."

But as some recall, the hundreds outside who were protesting Dr. King's speech. 

"We never made it inside," said Connie Dompier. "The crowd and protestor were such that we only moved but five feet on the front lawn and we were fascinated by all of the protesting which at that point in our lifetime we had seen very little of."

Another woman said she remembers calling her mother that day.

"I called my mother to tell her I was indeed safe and so were the students," she said. "And I said I never want to bring children into this world because it so violent after hearing about what went on outside. Within the week I found out I was pregnant for the first time."

The chair that Dr. King sat in as he was being introduced resides now in the principal’s office with a framed photo commemorating the event.