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Bill Russell was part of March on Washington, was near Dr. King 50 years ago

Aug 30, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

President Obama Honors Medal Of Freedom Recipients Getty Images

There was a lot of talk back on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of one of the monumental moments of American history — the March on Washington culminated in the iconic “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. That march and that speech helped lay out a vision that changed the course of the nation as one of the high water marks of the civil rights movement.

The speech was some of the most memorable and moving oratory ever given in the United States — and Bill Russell was feet away from Dr. King when he gave that speech.

It’s an amazing bit of history we were reminded of by TheBasketballJones.

“When I heard the speech, I had no idea that the words of that speech would last as long as they did,” Russell told USA Today in 2011 as he received his Presidential Medal of Freedom. “It never occurred to me it would be quoted 50 years later.”

Russell was the in the middle of his legendary career — he had five championships and three MVPs at that point — and his presence helped some understand the need for equality that extended from buses to restaurant counters all the way to the basketball court.

Russell had played a role in the civil rights movement as well (something talked about also in a Seattle Times story).

Russell found himself in a fit of rage — Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway while getting out of his car on the evening of June 12, 1963. Russell quickly sprung into action.

“Get down here,” Charles Evers, Medgar’s older brother, said to Boston’s superstar. “And we’ll open one of the playgrounds and we’ll have the first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi.” Russell did. With the Ku Klux Klan (including Evers’ killer, Byron De La Beckwith) following his every step, and with Charles barely sleeping while holding a rifle at Russell’s motel door for protection, Russell followed through on his promise.

Two months later, with the image of Evers’ assassination and the ghosts of Mississippi still fresh on his mind, Russell attended the “March On Washington” and even declined an invitation by King himself to stand beside him after meeting him the night before. Not because of any ill will, but because he understood the pain and tears it took to produce an event of this magnitude. ”He invited me to be up here, and I respectfully declined because the organizers had worked for years to get this together, and I hadn’t done anything,” said Russell at the March’s 50th anniversary.

But he did do something, by being there and lending his sizable presence to the cause.

  1. realninerfan22 - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Bill russell is full of it.. He declined because he didnt wanna be part of something that wud tarnish his image to white America. He was to scared to stand up for something, to put his face on it.. What a coward..damn uncle Tom.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 30, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      We have a winner: biggest loser ever. Cantonbound is now second biggest loser but still biggest wee-weeper!

  2. walterwhite1976 - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Seeing Obama stand where MLK Jr stood shouldn’t have been allowed. What a Joke.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 30, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      Bigger joke was seeing Lil gw bush-League in the White House. Biggest joke is that pinhead Six-Pack Sarah Palin The Quitter, Liar, and Phony.

  3. giantssb42champs - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Does he still blame Boston for being a racist city? LOL.

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 30, 2013 at 5:04 PM

      Is New Yawk still the Feces-Zone?

  4. mrtreyseven - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    it’s amazing how you can have a positive story and you still have a few people to comment with hateful reply’s Uncle Tom really dude….the Obama diss he won get over Bush, Nixon, Hoover, none of those guys catch as much grief as Obama I wonder why……..I will let you ponder that answer…..its amazing we had a president who knew a terrorist attack would take place on home soil and didn’t stop it put us in all these wars to avenge his father but Obama is worst cause he wants people to have Health care….people talking bout he the welfare president, low-key directing the comments to African Americans yet we are a minority, how can we posses the most welfare candidates when actually Caucasians make up the bulk of welfare assistance…..know ya facts stop going off the media and think back your favor president didn’t always do what’s right…’s a lose lose job somebody will always have something to say but blaming Obama for ish that was messed up for Many years and now things or turning around people don’t wanna see….Alabama was in a recession every since I was in 2nd grade always been apportioned Republican state, tell me since Obama has been in office the state finally have enough to give teachers raises now it’s not rocket science I just hate how people choose opportunities that don’t even concern Obama use it to bash him….I wish every decision you make was under a microscope and see what skeletons come out your closet

    • jimeejohnson - Aug 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      But: had the party of stupid Republicans not been so pathetic, an African-American NEVER gets elected President of the United States. You must’ve heard how the Depends Adult Diaper Corp. is raking in the bucks thanks to all the right wingNUTs pissing in their collective pants after LOSING TWICE IN A ROW to a Black man. It’s one of the biggest gottums of ALL TIME and without the party of stupid Republicans, it never happens.

  5. Craig W. - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    If you were alive in the 60s you would know that Bill Russell was an active civil rights advocate. You would also know that Boston was one of the most difficult cities for blacks to play in – certainly in the North.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      Boston sports teams struggled with racism for a long time, unfortunately… just look at the Red Sox… last team to integrate (not until 1959!). Tom Yawkey being in the Hall of Fame is a joke…

  6. unsportsmenmic - Aug 31, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    Reblogged this on UnSportsMenMic.

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