Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s history runs deep at Syracuse University. He first visited SU in 1961 and then again in 1965. The man responsible for bringing Dr. King to campus lives in Ohio, but he sat down with NewsChannel 9’s Jennifer Sanders when he was in town to talk about the momentous speech and how it changed him as well as his work in the city of Syracuse.
Walking through SU’s campus brings back powerful memories for former SU Professor Bill Wayson, who is Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University. To understand his contribution to an important piece of Syracuse history, you have to go back to 1965. That’s when Wayson invited Dr. King to speak at SU.
“We asked him to speak about the importance of education and he did talk about the poorer quality of education that we give poor kids,” Wayson said.
Dr. King spoke for nearly an hour in front of a thousand people at what was known as Sims Hall about education, poverty and equality.
“If you listen to the copy that we had, he dedicated a good part of what he had to a Bill of Rights for poverty; he was beginning to shift from race relations to poverty and eventually to the Vietnam War,” Wayson said.
For years, the original recording could not be found until Wayson unveiled the full recording.
“We must give equal if not greater attention to the fire within, to end the inferior education processes within the ghetto schools and break the cycle where Negro children come out as functional illiterates unprepared for anything other than menial unskilled jobs,” said Dr. King.
A speech ending in a rousing applause that Wayson says touched many in the room.
“I sat right next to him and people would walk right up to him all during the meal to get autographs and would burst into tears, just burst into tears, it was a very moving kind of thing,” Wayson said.
Wayson eventually left and started as principal at Croton Elementary which he later helped re-name Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School.
Although Dr. King was assassinated before the naming of the school, his legacy lived on through Wayson’s work in education and fighting for equality not just in Central New York, but around the world.