Columbus minister celebrating 50th anniversary of MLK Jr. speech

Wayne Hanrattie
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Next week marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Junior's historic march on Washington and his "I Have A Dream" speech.

A Hoosier minister was there in 1963 and now he's traveling back to Washington, D.C. to be there for celebrations.

Fifty years ago, Wayne Hanrattie couldn't see the speaker, but he heard every word.

"I'm somewhere buried over in this area, almost as far away as you could be [on the National Mall]," explained the retired Columbus minister.

Hanrattie was just 23 years old then.

Packed shoulder to shoulder in a crowd that stretched past the Washington monument, he experienced the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

"It's one of those moments that I cherish," Hanrattie said.

A young seminarian in 1963, Hanrattie was one of three white people on a school bus bound from New York for Washington, D.C.

He wanted to be a part of the March on Washington, after being ridiculed by his own race for having African-American friends.

"I realized in a very personal way what it was that people of color had to deal with all the time," Hanrattie said.

So with a quarter million others on the National Mall, he witnessed history.

"It was a way of saying with my own body that I'm no longer going be standing on the sidewalks, watching the parade. I'm in it. I'm going to be involved," he said.

"The first part of King's speech was on the formal side. He was probably reading. Then there was a shift that came, in which he kind of just put down whatever it was and just began speaking in those ways," Hanrattie recalled. "I have a dream that someday my four children will one day live in a nation will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Now, 50 years after Dr. King spoke those words, Wayne Hanrattie is going back to Washington, D.C. by bus once again, to commemorate the 'I Have a Dream' speech.

Celebrations begin there this weekend.

Hanrattie says it's important he be there.

"To relive it for sure, but also knowing that I'll have the opportunity and especially a few others who are going be with me on the bus, we're going be able to share with those who are on that journey something of how it touched them," Hanrattie said.

He's taking 40 Hoosiers to Washington of all ages, all races and all creeds.

It's a pilgrimage to the place where that voice still lingers, where so many found faith in a better future.

"It just connects for me a part of my life and a very deep journey," Hanrattie recalled, "and those words still keep ringing in my ears."

Read the speech here or watch here.