Valley professor recalls "March on Washington"

FRESNO, Calif.

"50 years ago I was a college sophomore, I lived in Canton, Ohio."

Not a political activist and just 19, James Walton recalls he rode a school bus all night to join the massive throng on the Washington Mall.

"It was a very hot day. I recall seeing the largest crowd I'd ever seen in my life. Estimates from 250 to four or five hundred thousand people."

He saw it as just an adventure, then heard Dr. King speak.

"Well King gave a speech I knew it was great. The response was tremendous. He seemed to capture the essence of 1963."

After the event Walton went back to Ohio, finished college, and eventually became an English Professor and head of the Department at Fresno State.

He says it took a while to sink in but the words he heard in 1963, shaped his view of the world. Over the year he taught the speech in his literature classes.

"I knew it was significant but in retrospect it was even more significant than I thought. I think it really changed a lot of things. I think Dr. King spoke in such a way that he in a sense crossed over. That he got other people that is to say, folks who were not African American to understand what he was saying."

Walton believes the march on Washington and Dr. King had a lasting impact on America.

"I think we should realize that we are all Americans, and I think Dr. King helped up to realize that. "

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