When Martin Luther King spoke in Los Angeles

MLK-ucla-janss-steps.jpgKing at the base of Janss Steps at UCLA on April 27, 1965. UCLA photo

Three more of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches in the Los Angeles area are in the news this MLK Day. King's Feb. 26, 1965 talk at Temple Israel in Hollywood is pretty well known — in 2007 the Jewish Journal posted an audio recording and gave the backstory. King, just 36 years old at the time, was making his first appearance in California since winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and first since the murder of Malcom X. As I posted in 2007, "King dined with prominent Westsiders at the Beverly Hills home of Dr. Irving Lichtenstein and attended a screening of The Greatest Story Ever Told at the Cinerama Dome (now the Arclight.) The theater crawled with police because of death threats and the seizure of stolen dynamite connected to a racist group. King also spoke at the World Affairs Council at the Hollywood Palladium. The Times reported that an "overflow crowd" of 1,500 at the temple gave King a warm welcome. That Sunday he returned to Selma." The 50th anniversary of the event was commemorated last night at Temple Israel.

The Pasadena Star-News also has an interesting story about King speaking at Caltech in 1958 — three different speeches over a visit of a few days. King stayed at the Beverly Hilton and was driven to Pasadena by Caltech alum Kent Frewing. He was not the typical Caltech guest lecturer.

“In those years it was typically an industrialist, steel company chairman or politician. I think Martin Luther King, Jr. was probably the most socially active person we had,” Frewing said of the choice to bring King to campus two years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “He was well known; he was famous.”

Even with the national recognition he had gained, Jovin said King, then 29, was humble and easy going.

“He was a very wonderful individual, who one could speak to easily without feeling intimidated in any way.”

Finally, a digital archive at UCLA has found and posted the lost audio of a speech that King delivered on campus April 27, 1965. That was a month after the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, that is depicted in the new biopic "Selma."

Previously on LA Observed
Print coverage of MLK's 1961 speech in the Valley
Martin's voice in Hollywood

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