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Published: Monday, 1/16/2006

Veteran asks what would Dr. King do


FINDLAY If the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., were alive today, he d have quite a few questions and more than a little advice for President Bush and other leaders in Washington, World War II prisoner of war Alexander Jefferson said in his keynote speech during a King Day observance yesterday.

Dr. King would begin by urging an end to the war in Iraq, said Mr. Jefferson, 84, who wore his Tuskegee Airmen jacket from World War II.

Mr. Jefferson was a member of the vaunted Red Tails. They were fighter pilots who protected American bombers over Europe.

Dr. King s questioning, according to Mr. Jefferson, who was a teacher and school principal in Detroit for 35 years, would continue with such topics as:

  • Why are you giving tax breaks to the richest people in the country?

  • Why wasn t the West Virginia mine, where 12 miners were killed, better regulated?

  • Why are so many jobs going overseas?

    Mr. President, it s time for a change, Mr. Jefferson said. I believe that would be Martin Luther King s message to us today.

    A crowd of about 140 responded by giving Mr. Jefferson several standing ovations in the auditorium at Central Middle School.

    The program was sponsored by Findlay s Black Heritage Library and Multicultural Center and by the University of Findlay.

    Mr. Jefferson had been introduced as a veteran of two wars.

    While battling the Nazis, Mr. Jefferson and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen were also fighting to prove to U.S. military leaders that black men were not second-class citizens.

    And when he was held prisoner, the Detroit native was treated with more civility by the Nazis than he had been by some of his white commanding officers, according to Alan Abrams, who introduced Mr. Jefferson as a true American hero.

    The King Day observance held one day before today s official holiday started with about 100 people taking a Unity Walk through downtown Findlay to the school.0

    It was the second year for such a walk, which had long been a dream of Nina Parker, founder and executive director of Findlay s Black Heritage Library.

    King Day speeches have a far longer history in Findlay.

    Yesterday s was the 24th annual, according to Ms. Parker, who has attended all but one. The lesson in how a King Day observance as well as a black heritage library with more than 3,000 volumes can survive on private funding in a city where 1.4 percent of the population is black was repeated over and over yesterday:

    One person really can make a difference.

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