Ever since that Washington Post reporter discovered a gentleman in 2008 whod been a butler through eight U.S. presidential administrations and got a book and movie deal out of it, journalists have been seeking other little-known but historically significant people to interview.
Hey, maybe I can get Oprah to star in my movie, too, the dream goes.
Ive found two such people, men of whom youve never heard but who claim they were cheated out of their rightful places in history even though they played a significant role.
Well, I would have played a significant role if King hadnt hogged the microphone that day.
The speaker is Agamemnon Theopholus Ellerbe III and he claimed to be the next scheduled speaker after Dr. King delivered his transcendent I Have A Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.
Man, I had a dream, too, but nobody heard about it because everybody was yelling and screaming and crying after King finished, Ellerbe said.
Got any proof, I asked?
No, Ellerbe said. People were carrying on so, whooping and hollering, after that speech. Nobody was listening to me. Have you ever tried to shout over 250,000 people all talking at one time?
Trust me, it isnt easy, he said. I got up there and pulled my speech from my breast pocket and said OK, you assembled masses. Settle down. You aint heard nothin yet. Ive got a dream, too, baby, but Im not going to share it with you until everyone is quiet. But they ignored me, homes. Now thats just plain rude, I said and stomped my foot for order. Nothing.
Thats when I discovered the park police officers had unplugged the microphone and were clearing out the area. One of them shouted Get off that stage, pal. We got a Peggy Lee concert at 8 and we need the mic.
Skeptical? You bet. Can anyone confirm this incredible story? I asked.
Thats when Ellerbe introduced me to another person who claimed to have been at the march but whose place in history has been similarly overshadowed.
Leonidas Aloysius Throckmorton, a retired history professor at Z.Z. Hill University, said his job at the event was to ensure that all of the speakers stuck to the time schedule. Throckmorton still sounded peeved 50 years later that one speaker went over his allotted time.
Mr. Throckmorton, I asked, Which -
Call me Ishmael, he said.
Huh? OK, Ishmael. Which speaker went over his time limit?
You know who it was. If you look real close at some of the archival film footage when Dr. King is speaking, you can see me off to the side, right next to Lincolns foot. Im the one waving my arms, pointing to my watch and looking exasperated. The dude just would not look over.
Wouldnt have done a lick of good anyhow, though. You know how Martin was when he got rolling. He didnt even stick to the script hed prepared.
That much alone can be confirmed. Its known that the most famous part of Kings speech, the I have a dream part that lifted it into history, was ad-libbed.
Didnt you think that powerful part was worth going a little off schedule? I asked Throckmorton.
He did not. What if everybody had gone over their scheduled time? Why, wed still be out there.
Speaking of which, thousands are scheduled to be out there Saturday, marching for the same things jobs and voting rights we marched for 50 years ago.
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