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Leon Bibb reports: A treasured photograph and a lasting memory of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A chance assignment in 1965 changed the life of a young intern at The Cleveland Call and Post newspaper.

CLEVELAND — When we take photographs, sometimes we wonder what will become of them.  They may find their way into albums or archives which may grow dusty with age but are still cherished years later for what the camera saw for a single moment. Many times photographs are taken to record important events or times. One of my old photographs is in that category.  It is among my most precious for it marks a day when a great man looked my way.  

It marked the only time I saw Martin Luther King in person.  Up close. I was a college student reporter working as an intern for the Cleveland Call and Post newspaper. Still studying my college courses to propel me I hoped into journalism that  Summer of 1965 was when the newspaper editor assigned me to cover Dr. King's visit to Cleveland. 

Credit: Call & Post
Photo of a 19 year old Leon Bibb, who interned for The Call & Post. A journalism major at Bowling Green University, Leon was assigned to cover a Cleveland appearance by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At this small Cleveland east side shopping area a crowd had gathered to hear Dr. King.  With my camera, I was up front to catch Martin Luther King as he approached the microphone.  I recall he didn't feel well that day.  But still, he spoke.  And we looked at each other briefly.    

We both smiled.  For the Cleveland Call and Post newspaper, I clicked my still camera several times and captured his image.

My photograph was printed front page of the newspaper.  The Summer of '65 was when greatness looked at me and smiled.  And then further inspired me. Martin Luther King's words still echo in me. 

He was a leader in the movement for all people about justice and fairness – causes that affect the rest of my life. Whenever and wherever he spoke Dr. King's words raised a people. The photograph I took and printed on the newspaper front page remains with me. Precious in every way.   But my photograph is more than just of Martin Luther King.  It is a stopped moment in time in a movement which he led and for which he died. Still, as a frozen image of a precise moment that is relished all these decades later, the photograph lives.

As well, Martin Luther King lives.  For me, he lives right here in my heart and in the hearts of a grateful people.  

A single photograph. No, my friends. Far more than that.   


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