Originally Published: January 17, 2011 10 p.m.
PRESCOTT - As a young boy, Yavapai College Professor Moses Glidden grew up 230 miles away from "any person of African-American descent."
In his small Midwest community, people used the "n" word - but not in his own home.
At 9, without a favorite baseball team to root for, he bought a pack of baseball cards. The first card he saw was Duke Snyder's of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers became his team even though he didn't know anything about them.
A trip to the library was in order. There, Glidden checked out 10 books about the Dodgers, three of them dealing with Jackie Robinson. His reaction after reading about Robinson was "how can they treat a Dodger like that?"
Glidden told this story at the kick-off of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
"Dr. King said that no one would have known about him if not for Jackie Robinson," Glidden said.
Acquiring that Duke Snyder baseball card and learning about Jackie Robinson sparked an interest in civil rights that has stayed with Glidden his entire life. By the time he was in high school, Glidden's interest in civil rights had grown and King was his hero.
"Dr. King was the only person doing something different - talking about non-violence," Glidden stated.
In 1963-64, Glidden was a senior in high school. For a senior project, his group selected civil rights, and Glidden suggested inviting someone from the NAACP to speak. Their invitation was accepted, and the speaker was the "first Black person to ever step foot into our high school. The principal and superintendent did not shake his hand, nor did they invite him to lunch as they would have any other speaker. Before he spoke, he introduced his beautiful wife. I turned around to look at her, and she was beautiful. I had never before thought of a Black woman as being beautiful."
Glidden attended college in Kentucky; a college then-recently integrated with one Black man and two Black women.
In the spring of 1965, King was marching from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. A friend with a car suggested he and Glidden go to Montgomery. Glidden immediately agreed. However, when the time came to make the trip, the friend changed his mind and decided to go home instead.
Glidden went anyway - hitchhiking from Kentucky to Alabama. On the final leg of his journey, he received a ride from a man with two rifles in the gun rack and a pistol sitting on the seat.
"He asked me where I was going and I wasn't stupid. I told him I was going to Florida for spring break," Glidden said. "He told me that if he thought I was going to the march, he would take me into the woods and I would never come back."
The man drove him all the way through Montgomery and after making sure he had left, Glidden started hitchhiking back to where the marchers would meet up with King the next day-the Holt Street Baptist Church.
"I spent the night in that Black church. It was a magical time," Glidden remembered.
The next morning after breakfast, the people divided into groups and waited for word on King's arrival. When word came that King was two miles away, Glidden grabbed the camera his friend had given him and ran to take a picture.
King was surrounded by fellow marchers and in front of him was a line of "big Black men with their hands clasped. I slid under their arms and took this picture," Glidden noted, displaying the picture he keeps framed behind his computer.
The photographs he took and the uplifting feelings that surrounded everyone that day are the memories Glidden has of King.
Glidden was in the military when on April 4, 1968, a friend told him that King had been assassinated. "I immediately dropped to my knees. Then, when Bobby was assassinated (Robert Kennedy, June 4, 1968) I had it with politics," Glidden explained.
He joined the anti-Vietnam movement and became a "violent person."
It wasn't until years later, at the age of 35, that Glidden learned discipline and discovered the joys of service.
Glidden said he wrestled with drugs and alcohol. He had to do something or he would be a dead man. "I went down on my knees and prayed that I would do anything to be clean and sober," he stated.
"Dr. King was an amazing man at an amazing time," Glidden said of the man he never met personally. "I never got close enough to shake his hand."
However, that does not dull his memories.
"The memory doesn't fade. It gets brighter all the time. His face gets brighter all the time. He found out that you can love the people you'd love to hate. If you can do that, you don't have any enemies," Glidden noted.