Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Columbus once in 1958

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Columbus once in 1958

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King is remembered around the nation, Columbus historians take a look at King's history with the city. Many may know of his one visit to the area, but few truly understand why he only came one time.

On July 1, 1958 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Columbus, GA. Dave Gillarm, Executive Director of the Columbus Black Museum, says the civil rights movement in the area became stagnate after a Columbus Civil Rights Activist was murdered, and King was brought in to reignite the flame.
"His visit here actually helped to revitalize the civil rights movement in Columbus. The civil rights movement in Columbus came to an end pretty much after with the death of Dr. Thomas H. Brewer who was assassinated in 1956," but Gillarm says Martin Luther King was not necessarily greeted with open arms.
"Saint James AME actually denied Dr. Martin Luther King from coming to their church to speak. They felt his message was too political.
There was going to be some type of violence and they didn't want to take a chance on their church being bombed," says Gillarm.
John Dobbs, Minnie Wimbish, Delavel and Robert Nesbitt were responsible for getting King to Columbus. They faced many challenges and resistance
because people believed King's perspective of integration was dangerous during a time of segregation.  
"They started to announce that M.L.K. would speak at the temple and the bomb threats started coming in," says Gillarm.
According to a report by the FBI, there were no incidents reported at the location where King spoke but a home owned by Essie Ellison the first black woman to move into one of Columbus' predominately white neighborhoods was bombed just hours after King spoke at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple.

City leaders wanted to do everything they could to keep violence out of the city, and so their assessment of the bombing wouldn't be in favor
of Dr. King.
According to Gillarm, city leaders said "We told you this was going to happen," and "they told Dr. King he was not welcome to come to Columbus anymore. So that is why he only came once."
The podium King spoke at is still on stage at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple. A photograph of King in Columbus and a copy of the program from his address is on display at the Columbus Black Museum.

According to Minnie, the only living participant of King's address, she says he spoke on issues like voting rights and racial equality.

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