UMES Alumnus Remembers 1959 Commencement Speaker MLK Jr. - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

UMES Alumnus Remembers 1959 Commencement Speaker MLK Jr.

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PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- It was 1959 when segregation was a staunch reality. Blacks couldn't eat with whites. Restrooms, drinking fountains and schools were all hidden behind "Colored Only" or "Whites Only" signs.

"There were color only signs here, color only signs there and I have never seen that before," said Charles Laws, of Frankford, as he remembers growing up in the late 1950s.

The year of 1959 was an eye opener for Laws. It was the same year the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his only public appearance on the Eastern Shore.

"He just walked to the podium and spoke," said Laws, who sat in the audience. "That was very impressive."

Laws was graduating from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore that year, and his commencement speaker was King.

"He was dressed in a black suit but he also wore his graduation grown with his colors and his collar, and he walked with the president," said Laws.

He sat just a few arms-reach from King.

"It was a very authoritative voice, very much so, and very sincere. You could feel his sincerity in his delivery."

He said it was a speech many dreamed of hearing, but only few got a chance to.

"I had many family members who came and couldn't get in. They sat in the cars, they walked around in the parking lot."

Now 55 years later, Laws believes the civil rights movement still marches on.

"We now have a black president, that was not even in anyone's 'mind-sight' at that time but because of things he [Dr. King] did, things he started all of this has come to be."

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