Fit for a King
As we pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this month, a Mount Vernon resident remembers his old friend.
You may have noticed that the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is alive and well in Westchester. But did you know that Dr. King himself made multiple visits to our county? Take, for example, his 1965 visit to the Eastchester Schrafft’s restaurant, where at least 500 tickets were sold for a dinner held in his honor. Or, his appearance at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon for a fundraiser that boasted a gathering of more than 1,000 people.
Rev. Dr. Richard J. Dixon, Jr., longtime pastor (from 1959 to December 31, 1999) of Macedonia Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, knew Dr. King and his family for many years, and was even invited to accompany him to receive his Nobel Prize in Norway. As we remember Dr. King this month, we talked with the 89-year-old Mount Vernon resident about the man behind the legacy.
How did you and Dr. King meet?
I met him through his brother. He was a priest. His father and my father were also very good friends.
Dr. King visited Westchester many times between 1959 and 1965, speaking at churches and fundraiser dinners. Why did he have such a strong interest in our area?
[He came here because] we had so many common issues in our cities. Westchester had some of the problems that Martin Luther King had seen in his area. His being [in Westchester] and relating to the people some of the things he thought was good about this city made it a better world in Mount Vernon.
What was Dr. King like?
He was very warm and easy to get along with. We loved each other. I called him Mike.
After meeting him, what surprised you most about him?
He was outgoing and giddy. He was concerned about making a better city, a better community, a better church. If you had a question, he had the answer.
In 1964, you accompanied Dr. King to Norway to receive his Nobel Peace Prize. What was that experience like?
You couldn’t put it into words. He and I went together with his father and his mother and his brother.
How did you feel watching him receive the Nobel Peace Prize? I felt so good! He dedicated it to his life and his people. There was not a better, more devoted person than Dr. Martin Luther King. Anything he saw, he wanted to give his life for to make it better.
How did Dr. King react to receiving the honor that day? He was very humble.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception people have about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? He was a black man that was only concerned for black people. He wasn’t. He was concerned about everybody. He might be dead, but he still lives. Men, women, boys, and girls want to be like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I congratulate that.
Westchester Honors Dr. King
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is located in White Plains and is the home of important buildings like the Westchester County Richard J. Daronco Courthouse.
The Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence in White Plains houses the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Library, which is free and open to the public.
Martin Luther King Jr. High School is located in Hastings-on-Hudson.