Former doctor marched with King in ’63

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 22, 2002

On Aug.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

On Aug. 28, 1963, Thoburn Thompson of Albert Lea was one of 250,000 in Washington D.C. witnessed Martin Luther King making his famous &uot;I have a dream&uot; speech.

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Thompson, a retired ALMC doctor, was among the participants in the morning Martin Luther King Day program at First Lutheran Church Monday.

When Dr. King opened his mouth with an opening passage, &uot;Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation,&uot; Thompson was about 100-feet away from the platform built on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

&uot;The speech was not only political but also biblical and vary patriotic,&uot; Thompson said. &uot;It affirmed what I thought, and I affirmed what he thought.&uot;

What struck Thompson more than the speech was the whole diverse atmosphere filling the Mall.

&uot;The audience was a wonderful mix,&uot; Thompson recalled. &uot;People of every color -&160;Blacks, Whites, Hispanics and Asians – were present.&uot;

Nonviolence, which characterized the Civil Rights Movement led by King, was a core principle of the August march, too. Prior to the march, a series of sessions were held to confirm the nonviolent nature of the movement, according to Thompson.

&uot;The march was something like a celebration of freedom. There was no feeling of anger. And there was an exciting feeling of connection with strangers you don’t know standing next to you,&uot; Thompson said.

Thompson was a young medical doctor, having just finished his residency in New Hampshire.

Instead of getting a job in a hospital, he decided to join a missionary group to help the unprivileged in Bolivia, where he would stay seven years in local hospitals.

In August 1963 Thompson was in a missionary training camp in Stony Point, New York. Without hesitation he decided to join an overnight bus trip to D.C. when he heard about the march.

The experience in Bolivia consolidated his awareness of people different from himself, Thompson said.

Being in Albert Lea for almost two decades, Thompson has witnessed a rapid progression of diversity in the community.

&uot;A traditionally homogenous society like Albert Lea may provide a sense of security among residents. But it also creates a prejudice toward different ethnic groups. We need to admit the diversity instead of fighting against it,&uot; Thompson said.