CT Catholic Priest attended historic 'I have a dream' speech by - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CT Catholic Priest attended historic 'I have a dream' speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MGN photo) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MGN photo)

Events across the state honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Monday, one local Catholic priest reflected on the day he saw one of the civil rights leader’s historic speeches.

King was a legendary peace and civil rights leader and many of the events Monday paid tribute to his ideals and vision. 

"The moment that Dr. King stepped up to speak, you could feel the hush and then dead silence," Father Tim Meehan said. 

Meehan, who is a Catholic priest, said the enormity of moment and King’s moving speech could be felt immediately. 

"He started to speak and he wasn't within five sentences when it suddenly dawned on me, this is something that's going to have historical significance,” Meehan said.

At the time, Meehan was assigned to St Martin DePores Church on Dixwell Avenue, a predominately African-American parish, where he said he saw firsthand discrimination and prejudice, especially when it came to housing and education. A friend and activist, who moved to Washington DC offered him a ticket in the reserved section, where Meehan ended up seven rows from the stage.

"Then when he began the I Have a Dream phase you could hear a small murmur in the crowd.  The Amens, the yes, the alleluia, just softly,” Meehan said. “When he retreated that phrase, I have a Dream, the sound from the crowd began to swell, yes, Amen."

A few years after being there for the march on Washington, Meehan said he was asked by the bishop to head down to Selma, AL to help show solidarity, with those marching to Montgomery.  Now 83 years old and retired, Meehan said they're two impactful moments in his life he'll always remember, along with the man who made it happen, the man we remember on Monday.

"He was there to say I'm expressing the feelings of many people and it comes from my heart,” Meehan said. 

Politicians honor MLK

The governor reflected on King's service. 

Malloy said King worked on a farm in Somers for two summers. 

"It was the first time he experienced non-segregated conditions," Malloy tweeted. 

Malloy said King wrote letters to family about attending non-segregated church services for the first time in his life and being able to eat where he wanted when he visited Connecticut. 

“After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation,” King wrote of that 1944 trip in his autobiography, according to Malloy's tweet.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty has several events statewide to honor King. Esty began her day at Maloney High school in Meriden around 8 a.m., attending the annual MLK and Albert Owens Scholarship Breakfast.

Later in the day, the congresswoman attended a church service in Waterbury at the Mount Olive AME Zion Church at noon. 

Events across the state honor Martin Luther King Jr. 

West Hartford hosted their 21st annual MLK celebration at town hall on Monday afternoon. 

This year's keynote speakers were Victoria Christgau and Pastor James A. Lane, Jr. of the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, Hartford. Victoria Christgau  is a lifelong peace and nonviolence educator.

At the  request of legendary civil rights leader, educator and activist, Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr., Christgau created the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence in 2007.

As founder and executive director, she has trained hundreds of people from across racial, social, economic and generational divides in the philosophy and strategies of Kingian Nonviolence. 

In New Haven, the Alpha Kapp Alpha theta epsilon omega chapter hosted the annual Martin Luther King conference. It celebrated a the legacy of Dr. King. Events begin at the Wexler-Grant Community Center on Monday morning. 

The University of Hartford held an observance that was open to the public on Monday. This event featured an inspirational program of music and reflections commemorating the life and legacy of the civil rights leader. University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, who has led the University since 1998 and will be retiring at the end of June, delivered the keynote address.

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