(CBS) – It was 50 years ago that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the historic voting-rights in Alabama. The memories of that event are still fresh for one prominent Chicago educator.
He talked with CBS 2’s Jim Williams.
Long before he became the celebrated founder of Providence St. Mel School, Paul Adams walked 54 miles to demand the right to vote in 1965.
Adams — then 24 years old — wanted to join his hero, Dr. King, in the march from Selma to Montgomery.
“I’m from Montgomery, Ala. I met Dr. King when I was 14, and so, when the call came out, I just knew I had to go,” Adams says.
He did it, despite the fears of his mother. During an earlier voting-rights march — so-called “Bloody Sunday” – law-enforcement officers had beaten hundreds of marchers.
“My mother said, ‘Let someone else go. I said, ‘I am someone else.’ So I went,” Adams says. “She thought I wouldn’t make it back.”
He was unharmed.
Adams sees a link between that pivotal civil rights march a half century ago and his mission to educate young people in the inner city.
Now 74, Adams is the executive chairman of Providence St. Mel. His students were in school Monday, while many other schools took the day off in honor of King.
Adams thinks students are better off learning about King, in class, as his students did this week.
“Dr. King was an educator,” Adams says. “We’re in the inner city, and we’re going to take the day off? I think it’s ridiculous.”
Many other Chicago students may have had the day off Monday, but thousands of them saw the new movie, “Selma,” which dramatizes the historic march. It was courtesy of After School Matters, the after-school program for Chicago Public Schools students.
About 10,000 were transported to theaters to see the film, CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports.