HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped on Hattiesburg soil 50 years ago, just two weeks prior to his assassination. WDAM went back to the spot where King encouraged a crowd of local residents from Hattiesburg during a Mass Meeting to believe in their dreams and stand up for equality.
"Equality for people, for everybody," said Clarence Magee, president of the Forest County NAACP.
It was March 19, 1968, at 900 Spencer Street in Hattiesburg during the middle of the Civil Rights Movement when the doors to Mount Zion Baptist Church opened to the great icon.
"He had to be sort of escorted into town secretly, also escorted out of town secretly on the night he spoke here," Magee said. "It was very late when he did get here so, some of us had to go home and we didn't stay through it."
Magee remembered the night vividly. He said King's visit forever changed the minds of the community and were graced with the deep rooted meaningful words spoken by the great reverend. No videos were taken, no tangible items remain from that historic visit, just the memories stored solely within.
"He came here, and I am honored and the city should be honored and highlight this day for him while looking at the historic marker placed in front of the church," Magee said.
"But to be standing here today, to be experiencing a portion of the dream he had for this country, and I say it's somewhat like a mirage," Magee said.
When you travel King's footsteps in the Hub City, you find the words that describe the visit on the marker, devoted to the struggle for equality in Mississippi and across the nation.
"In a sense, we think we have it, but we still don't have it," Magee said. "There are still miles to travel before we really achieve the full benefit of what he saw on April 3 when he did his Mountaintop speech."
The church was locally known as the "Civil Rights Church." It was a church that hosted a freedom school in 1964 and was home to many Mass Meetings during the civil rights era.