Dr. Martin Luther King's speechwriter shares fond memories of the Civil Rights leader

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, January 15, 2024
Dr. King's speechwriter shares memories of civil rights leader
Darla Miles has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For Dr. Clarence B. Jones, there's one location in the Riverdale section of the Bronx that resonates with him to this day.

"4635 Douglas Ave. is something very, very important in my life," he told Eyewitness News. "I agreed to have Dr. King and his family come and stay here for six weeks."

In 1963, this location was the home of Dr. Jones, personal counsel, advisor and draft speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"We used to hold conference calls, two or three times a week from my living room," he recalled.

What's more, it was also where Dr. King stayed in the weeks before the March on Washington, preparing his seminal "I Have a Dream" speech.

"When I sat down to undertake writing a speech for him, I retain the sound of his voice in my ear better than most could do. Because I could retain the fidelity of his voice," he shared.

Before going to law school, Dr. Jones studied at Julliard, where he picked up the musical training used to craft melodious, high impact, memorable speeches for Dr. King.

"Sometimes Martin would say to me, 'You know, I read this draft and you're scary.' I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'You say 'Stop, repeat and pause.' Who does that?' I said, 'That's my Julliard training,'" he remembered.

More than 60 years later, Jones returned to New York City, where he was honored for his own work with Dr. King.

"When I get up every day, I don't take life for granted," he said. "I get up every day with a purpose. How can I devote the remaining part of my life to what he believed in and what he sought to achieve."

At the tender age of 93, Jones continues to advance social justice as the Chairman of Spill the Honey, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the next generation about racism and antisemitism to inspire social change.

"What we sought to achieve can best be embodied by the alliance between the Black and Jewish community," he shared. "We would not have done it without that alliance. End of story."


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