Neighbors On MLK Boulevard Recall Impact Of King Speech

The man who led the nation's civil rights struggle made his most memorable speech 40 years ago.

Dr. Martin Luther King Junior spoke the words,  "I have a dream" to a crowd of thousands in the nation's capital on this date in 1963.

Did those four famous words make a difference in people's lives?

WLOX News asked that question in a neighborhood with a somewhat special connection to Dr. King.

We visited Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard in North Gulfport. Surprisingly, the vast majority of the dozens of people we talked with preferred not to comment on camera. Despite the response, we kept moving down the street and our persistence paid off.

"I have a dream that one day my children will be judged, not by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character," said the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in is most famous speech.

He passionately envisioned a color blind society; an America based on love and equality.

Todd Johnson wasn't even born when Dr. King ignited the crowd in Washington. But lessons from that era echoed through classrooms and elders in South Mississippi. He recalls being introduced to Martin Luther King Jr. in the third grade.

"It was through my grandmother. And school. She was a very spiritual person and she always talked about him. And when his birthday was here, we'd sit down and watch the movie. They'd always show the film and everything," he said.

Lawrence White can relate to standing up for something you beleive in.

"You know, when I moved this here, I can remember four and a half years ago I had to call the police out just to get them to let 'em bring this double wide in here. And I caught hell with it. Yet and still, I have a dream," said White.

His dream is to improve the looks and image of his neighborhood. He admires Dr. King's crusading character and is reminded of the man daily by the street sign on the corner.

"I came here to clean up the neighborhood. And it's been a challenge but I thank God, being strong and holding on and realizing there is a dream that must be achieved. That has kept me on this corner," said White.

That's the kind of determined attitude Dr. King would have admired.

Todd Johnson told us the heart of Dr. King's message is love. He believes until we learn to love one another, the dream will never be fully realized.

By Steve Phillips