This is a remarkable story of a young college student’s personal encounter with Martin Luther King, Jr. at Iowa State Teachers College (now UNI) in Cedar Falls during the fall of 1958. Posted here with permission.
by Harold H. Hensel
Many of my family and friends have heard this story many times before but there are new friends on Facebook that haven’t heard it. Plus, I like remembering it. So here goes.
I was urged by my freshman humanities teacher, Dr. Lang, to go to the convocation. I didn’t know what a convocation was but I went anyway. It was a speech at the Commons. About 600 students were there. I thought it was a powerful speech. The speaker said he would be at the book store afterwards. I didn’t think I would get close but I went anyway.
There were three other students there and they left. So there I was with the speaker by myself. I bought his book. He had a PHD and he started asking me questions! He wanted to know why the audience did not respond to his message. We talked about it for about twenty minutes.
I had been viciously hazed during my freshman and sophomore year of high school by the school bully and his buddies. One of them came at me with a baseball bat one time and fully intended to hit me with it. I grabbed the bat as it came down and stepped aside. The bully fell to the ground and I had the bat raised in my hand. All I had to do was bring it down and the bully would have been seriously injured. I thought it was not worth getting myself in trouble and decided against it.
I suggested that the audience in Iowa had not been discriminated against and there was a difference between understanding discrimination intellectually and emotionally. The speaker said that must be it. He signed my book, Martin L King, Jr .
When I left, I considered myself a member of the civil rights movement. I got away from the bullies when they left school. I couldn’t imagine not being able to get away from the sting of discrimination because of my skin color. And advocating non-violence was really courageous.
If Dr. King was alive today and you met him, I am sure he would wish you “Best Wishes” as well.