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jp r e s e n t i n g

G E O R G E    D.    A R N O L D

MLKechoes.com

"George Arnold keeps the words of Martin Luther King Jr. alive by committing
them to memory and speaking with the passion of a convert."
-- The Baltimore Sun

L to R: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ?, David Davenport,  George D. Arnold

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   Years after his death, the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. continue to resonate in the American consciousness, as much because of the way he expressed them as because of what they meant.

   That's certainly the case for George D. Arnold, a retired Manager of Employee Relations for Bendix...For most of the years since 1968, he has dedicated himself to keeping King's voice alive by memorizing and reciting his speeches and letters. For Arnold, King's words remain living texts, not archival exhibits.   (Email to schedule George Arnold for your next event...contact information below.)

   Arnold spends a large amount of his own time on this personal mission. He has delivered his program, "Echoes of Dr. King" to more than 1,500 schools, churches and civic organizations since he has started memorizing the King texts in 1969.

   He has given King's "I Have a Dream" speech at the dedication of the chapel at Morehouse College, King's alma mater in Atlanta, and his "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" address -- King's final public oration -- for 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln memorial at the 20th anniversary observance of the 1963 March on Washington.

   Giving new life to King's words earned a city recognition day in 1980. It has brought him to the stage of the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where he narrated "Legacy of Vision: Martin


Arnold giving a King speech at a local HS in Beloit, MI -- 1969

Luther King Jr.," a work for chorus and orchestra by Jonathan Bruce Brown, for the state observance of King's birthday.

   There he stood, in a black church robe with velvet facings and red crosses, and out rolled words that blazed across America decades ago: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..." In Arnold's re-creation, which sounds uncannily like the voice of King, the message speaks again.


L to R: Rev. Rideout, Martin Luther King Sr. ("Daddy King"), Mr. Gilkey, George Arnold -- Sacred Heart Church, University of Notre Dame, 1976.
   Arnold became an ardent believer during the exciting years of the 1960s, when King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference changed the attitudes and then the laws of the United States, with their marches, boycotts and protests.

   Shortly after King's assassination, Arnold began to to exercise his memory by committing to heart King's speeches and writings. He first tackled the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," a tract of more than 7,000 words written when King was imprisoned for leading a civil rights march to the city hall of Birmingham, AL, on Good Friday 1963. It has become a seminal text in the literature of civil disobedience.


   Arnold told a friend of this feat of memory, but all he got was a comment that he must be insane to spend so much time for no reason at all. But Arnold enjoyed the challenge so much that he continued to memorize King's words.

   By now, he estimates that he has about 6 1/2 hours of the speeches and writings in his head, including all the major addresses and many of the lesser ones. He is able to draw on them without so much as a pause for reflection, quoting paragraphs by heart as easily, and as compellingly, as he quotes Scripture.

   Arnold was born in Indianola, MS, a place known for two things: as the home of the blues singer B.B. King and the place where the White Citizens Council, a strident opponent of integration, was founded.

   When he was 4, his family moved to Rockford, IL, north of Chicago. That was in 1940, when the city was becoming a hub of tool manufacturing and the government needed every worker, whatever his or her color, for wartime production. Arnold remembers few racial incidents in this integrated town, and he was educated in its excellent public school system, which he says may account in part for his well-trained memory.


George Arnold delivering a King speech at Norte Dame, 1976

   In 1954, Arnold says, "Air Force blue looked pretty good to me." He enlisted, and learned his first lessons in racial politics taking the train from Chicago to Greenville, SC, where he was to report to Donaldson Air Force Base.

   In Cincinnati, Arnold -- who was in the blue uniform he was so proud to wear -- was told by a black porter: "Perhaps you'll want to change cars here." When he failed to understand, the porter said: "Son, this is there we "change," emphasizing the word so it had more than one meaning.

   When Arnold got to Greenville and found the bus to the base, he again was told where to sit. A hamburger joint in the bus station refused to serve him, and a black Air Force master sergeant finally took him around the back, where blacks could eat. "I'm doing this so that you'll continue to live," he told the young recruit.
 
  
L to R: Dr. Overstreet, George Arnold, another gentleman, Martin Luther King Sr. ("Daddy King") --
"You'll say that I learned to be a jumping jack," Arnold says of his trips off-base into Greenville. "When white people would come along, I'd have to jump off the sidewalk to let them pass."

   Arnold lives in a two-story brick and clapboard house in Baltimore....He and his wife Marlon (deceased) have three adult daughters...The photographs are prominent on Arnold's bookshelves and coffee table...In his den and library downstairs, however, the walls are covered with photographs and memorabilia of the civil rights era and Arnold's performances...The most important, he says, is a plaque of recognition from his church, New Psalmist Baptist Church. But almost as important is his recognition from Morehouse, the school King attended.

   And there are books: on civil rights and black Americans, from the writings of King himself to the autobiography of Colin Powell. These, along with his personal archives, will go to his children after he dies.

   "When I was a boy shining shoes in Rockford, " Arnold says, "an industrialist told me you can get a pretty good indication of an individual by the books in his home." And he still believes, as his shoeshine customer told him, that if he remembered just one thing out of every book he read, that would be an education in itself.

   "You use what you have," he says of his tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. over the years. "God put me in a position to be used."                                                                                            -- by Judith Greene, special to the Baltimore Sun

 

 

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>>>>>   Schedule George D. Arnold for your next event    <<<<<
 

"Echoes of Martin Luther King Jr."
George D. Arnold, 6703 Long Hill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21207
TEL 410.944.1011
EMAIL

MLKechoes.com

 



 

 

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George D. Arnold has shared
the platform with the following:


 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
Honorable Andrew A. Young
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Mr. James Farmer
Congressman Walter Fauntroy
Ms. Dorothy Height
Kweisi Mfume
Mr. Arthur Fletcher
and many more...

 

   Copyright, 2007 George D. Arnold. All rights reserved. Nothing on this page may be used without explicit written permission.
Note: Reproduction of any kind, including copying and pasting, is strictly prohibited. 

 

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