Former Anderson professor remembers meetings with King

Maurice Caldwell with his wife, Dondeena.
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The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lives on as millions of Americans paused Monday to remember his life.

On this day to remember King, Anderson's Maurice Caldwell can never forget.

"To hold his hand, it was like a momentous occasion for me. I had followed him," said the 90-year-old retired Anderson University professor.

He and his wife Dondeena were members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which Dr. King led. They first met in Birmingham at the height of the bus boycott to promote civil rights, then again in 1963.

"I went to his home," said Caldwell. "He introduced me to his wife, Coretta."

On that visit to Atlanta, Caldwell was photographed with Dr. King.

"I was really impressed with the family. I thought they were really a model family," he said.

Caldwell would see Dr. King again that year.

"Oh, that was the experience of a lifetime," he said, talking about the March on Washington and King's "I have a dream" speech. "I think everybody felt the magnetism. We were all bound together in this human enterprise."

Non-violence was a centerpiece of the Caldwells' life when they got the news of King's assassination in 1968 while working in Mexico.

"Devastating. It was a terrible shock," Caldwell said.

King's assassination struck him down in the prime of life. Had he lived, Caldwell thinks he would have championed "eliminating poverty and lifting the standard of life."

He was a man influenced by Jesus and Ghandi, Caldwell said, "he had a firm conviction that he would succeed, that the movement would succeed."