James Meyer, Chevy Chase, MD

During the summer of 1963, I was working as a government employee at the Naval Surface Weapons facility in White Oak, Maryland. It was my third summer working there, earning money for my college education. I was drawn to civil service because of President Kennedy and drawn to an interest in the planned March on Washington in part because of him. Civil rights in general had been important to me and to my brother, A. Paul Meyer, who, at that time, was pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia. However, there was never any focus or imperative to the movement for me until I decided to join my brother and participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was certainly a humbling, exhilarating, and profoundly meaningful day for me and my brother. From the start of the March from the Washington Monument, through to the end at the Lincoln Memorial there was a sense of purpose, with thousands of like-minded people marching peacefully but with a determination to make a difference in advancing freedom for African American brothers and sisters. The program at the Lincoln Memorial is history with impressive “Remarks” by many and meaningful musical contributions by Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson and the Eva Jessye Choir. But of course the remarks by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the day a special significance for me and the thousands of participants. It was a hot day and drinking water was scarce but I recall little complaining. The day had been a profound one, catalyzing thousands, even politicians, to advance the actions for jobs and freedom.

So the day for me was something of a turning point. In some small way, I hope that I have advanced those principles that Dr. King articulated on that day. But there are also disappointments too in reflecting on that day 50 years ago. Too many of my Christian friends said “No” to participating in the March and “No” to the movement. And here we are today, 50 years later, still a nation struggling with injustices, for example, as noted recently in the Washington Post by Courtland Milloy (One example from his column: “ .. one in every 15 black men is incarcerated….”) So much more needs to be done. My brother and I won’t be around to assess the 75th anniversary, but it is our hope and prayer that it will be a victory celebration.

Submitted: February 20, 2013

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