August 26, 2013

Portland Evening Express: Seven bone-tired greater Portlanders will never forget Washington March

From the archives: a Portland Evening Express article interviews Mainers who had just returned from the March on Washington on August 29, 1963.

Harrison Brown/Staff reporter

Yesterday's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was deadly serious. Its fervor was religious. But for seven Greater Portlanders who arrived home today, bone-tired and almost asleep on their feet, it had a festive, almost a picnic quality. 

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Tired but still enthusiastic, this delegation returned today from the civil rights demonstration in Washington. The "police brutality" placards did not apply, however, because capital law officers turned out gentlemanly and good-natured. Left to right are Gerald Talbot, Alfred Burris, Lawrence Graham, the Rev. Valton V. Morse, Miss Elizabeth Aldrich, Mrs. Joseph Robey, and the Rev. John C. Bruce. Published in the Aug. 29, 1963, Portland Evening Express.

Don Johnson/staff photographer

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"We wouldn't have missed it for the world," was the unanimous sentiment.

Returning here at 9 a.m. were the Rev. John C. Bruce, minister of Green Memorial AME Zion Church; the Rev. Valton V. Morse, minister of Cumberland Congregational Church; Mrs. Joseph Robey, Scarborough; Alfred Burris, 229 Congress St.; Lawrence Graham, 3 C St., a senior at Cheverus High School; Miss Elizabeth Aldrich, Windham, a junior at Windham High School; and Gerald Talbot of 97 Beckett St.

The group, scattered among three buses, left Portland Tuesday evening. They left Washington at 6:15 p.m. yesterday. Two nights on the road took their toll. Burris and Talbot, grateful to their employers for giving them yesterday off, said they'd try to "stagger" back to their jobs today. The other five were headed for home, eager for baths and sleep.

The Rev. Mr. Morse said the huge demonstration was carried out "in a dignified and disciplined manner."

"It just can't help paving a favorable influence on pending civil rights legislation," he said.

His remarks set the tone for the others' comments, all of them enthusiastic.

The demonstration was heavily policed by MP's and members of the capital's police force. The Rev. Mr. Morse esimated that at least a third of the peace officers were Negroes.

"Our children will be studying this day in history."

"They couldn't have been nicer, either," was the unanimous opinion. The police were unfailingly police and helpful, all agreed.

One officer wert out of his way – several blocks out, as a matter of fact – to help an old lady find her bus. But he cautioned her to say nothing about his good deed. "If you did, I'd be mobbed by other bus-missers," the officer grinned.

Mrs. Robey quoted the remark of a Negro youth with whom she was conversing. "Our children will be studying this day in history."

Miss Aldrich said her motive for going on the march was a trip she made through the South earlier this summer. "I'd heard of those injustices to the Negro people," she said. "Then I saw them. They upset me. I'm glad I was in Washington yesterday. It was the most wonderful experience I've ever had."

No antagonism toward the riders was evident on the long trips to and from the capital, the delegation said. In fact the reaction of crowds along the route was quite the opposite – a vast outpouring of good will.

People waved, smiled and hollered encouragement as the bannered vehicles went through cities, they reported.

All seven marchers agreed that the huge crowd of nearly a quarter of a million persons represented a cross section of the nation. They met people black and white from Alaska to Florida, from Maine to California. There were the toddlers and the aged, the lame, the halt, even the blind with Seeing Eye dogs.

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