ADA — Fifty years ago, one of the most iconic figures in American history made his way to Ada, Ohio.
It was Jan. 11, 1968 when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Ohio Northern University. On Jan. 18, 2018, the university will host a panel discussion about that historic event at 11 a.m. in the Freed Center for the Performing Arts.
According to a news release from Ohio Northern, the panel discussion kicks off a series of events to honor the occasion. It will culminate with the unveiling of a statue of King on April 17 outside of Taft Hall on the ONU campus.
The panel discussion will include panelists Terry Keiser, Alfred Cohoe, Monty Siekerman, Sadika White, Bob Parsons, Bob Roberts and Joel Weaver. Keiser and Cohoe were ONU faculty members at the time and Siekerman was ONU’s director of university information, while the others were students at Ohio Northern.
“Dr. King’s talk was a watershed moment in the life of the university as well as his work in leading the civil rights movement,” according to ONU chaplain Rev. David MacDonald. “His talk occurred in the midst of his ‘poor people’s campaign’ and was at the beginning of Dr. King talking against the Vietnam War. It is clear from his words that Dr. King was passionate about issues of justice and equality, issues for which he fought until the day he died.”
King’s talk at ONU was one of the last speeches he gave at a college or university. According to ONU archivist Paul Logsdon, King spoke at Kansas State University on Jan. 19, 1968 and at Manchester (Indiana) College on Feb. 1. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4.
“The speech was electric, and he was captivating,” Siekerman said. “Working at a university, I have heard a number of speakers, but no one compares with him. Rev. King spoke with a preacher’s style and cadence. His voice went up and down and it was very effective. I recall that he spoke without any notes.”
Security was tight, and the atmosphere was tense, Siekerman recalls.
“Because on security concerns, we did not know how he was getting here,” he said. “Once on campus, Dr. King went directly from his car, through a back door at Taft and right to the stage. Rev. King then left right after his talk. When he was late to arrive, there was concern, but, as I remember, the crowd was very patient.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.