Baker recalls meeting Dr. King

Tue, 2012-07-24 10:25 -- univcomm
The voice is a familiar one that generations of Americans and people around the world have heard. But most only know the sound of Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice as it is played over the television or radio. At least one Anderson man, however, knows what the voice that continues to inspire people sounds like in person. Back in the early 1960s, before he riveted a nation with his "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at a church in Detroit. In the audience, a young Ted Baker [currently director of church programs for Anderson University] sat and listened.

"I think he was one of the greatest orators of our time," Baker said. "He had a great message and the tools to deliver it."

Baker hails from Georgia, the same state where King was born Jan. 15, 1929. Growing up in the South and spending his adult life in the North gave Baker a perspective on King that was unique.

"A lot of how you heard Martin Luther King depended on where you were," he said.

In the South, prior to the 1960s, segregation was out in the open. Until 1956, seating on buses in the South was often divided by race. In 1960, King was arrested for protesting at a segregated restaurant.

The life of segregation was one Baker knew as well.

"I knew his South," Baker said.

When Baker heard King speak, the crowd was small compared to the throngs of people who would flood Washington, D.C. In fact, the setting was so small that Baker was able to shake King's hand afterward.

"I think when it comes to Martin Luther King Jr., he knew where he was going," Baker said. "He had a message that many of us didn't know."

King would eventually win the Nobel prize at the age of 35 and become the only African-American to be recognized with his own holiday.

Eventually, Baker would become an ordained minister and is now the director of church programs for Anderson University.

He said he vividly remembers when he heard that King had been killed in 1968.

"I cried," he said.

---writer Paul Baylor is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald Bulletin