Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. “had a dream.”

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. “had a dream.”

The well-known words that he spoke in Washington, D.C., that day has inspired many to bridge countless cultural and socio-economic gaps in the country.

Today, Americans across the nation are reaping benefits of that dream and remember him as one of the most well-known leaders in of civil rights in U.S. history. This is true for McPherson locals of all ages and ethnicities.


Ray Gibbs, part of the Mac Diversity Team, was a teenager when King was shot. He remembers feeling the same way as when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“They were people who were really trying to do something to impact a better understanding of people’s differences,” he said. “Dr. King influenced me a lot to judge people on their character. I carry myself the way I want to be treated and show people that I will treat them equally.”

For 82-year-old McPherson resident Charlie Sumners, he remembers King when he was still speaking to the masses. Sumners said he always agreed with King’s approach.

“What he was doing was pretty great,” he said. “He  made this (United States) a lot better place.”

This perspective was demonstrated when Sumners was in charge of 17 men in the Army, two of them African-American. Sumners said the group was planning to eat together, but when the two African-Americans were not allowed to eat with them, they all left to find somewhere else to eat.

“If they’re good enough to go out and fight with us, they’re good enough to eat with us,” he recalls thinking.

C.J. Luckey, a McPherson High School and Central Christian graduate, said although King wasassassinated before he was born, his lifestyle influences Luckey’s approach to life.

“It’s pursuing a dream, having an influence on people, standing for a purpose,” he said. “He inspires me to become a better father, a better husband, a better leader, a better servant.”

Luckey said this change in attitude has happened throughout the country.

“It’s crazy to see a lot of the things he spoke about come to pass,” Luckey said, giving Barack Obama’s election as an example. “It goes to show we’ve come a long way. Racism is still alive, but it’s improving.

It’s gotten a whole lot better.”

This is true even in McPherson. Luckey said he has enjoyed seeing more inter-racial couples and mixed children in the community.

“McPherson has become more diverse over the years,” he said. “Some people don’t embrace change, but McPherson does.”

Community event

The McPherson community as a whole is invited to honor King and reflect on his life Monday, with a free service at 7:30 p.m. at McPherson High School. The event will celebrate America’s civil rights movement and the hero who brought it to fruition. The theme, “Our World, Our Neighborhood,” will emphasize unity, brotherhood, and commonality with others, rather than reasons for division.  

This year’s theme is derived from Martin Luther King’s quotation, “What we are facing today is that through our scientific and technological genius we’ve made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers — or we will all perish together as fools.”

The event will open with the invocation by Mayor Tom Brown and a welcome by Ray Gibbs, a member of the Mac Diversity Team. It will include performances by the following: McPherson High School Jazz Band directed by Kyle Hopkins; McPherson High School Mixed Ensemble under the direction of Nicholas Griggs; vocal duo Miriam and Nicholas Griggs; Caleb McGinn, award-winning acoustical musician; and vocal soloist C.J. Lucky. The program will conclude with Nicholas Griggs singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

For further information, contact Tandy Wine at 620-242-2303 or Ray Gibbs at 620-245-0525.

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel