Pellissippi State faculty member featured in New York Times March on Washington retrospective

Robert Boyd, an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State Community College, was featured last week in a New York Times article commemorating the March on Washington in 1963.

The 50th anniversary of the event, which included the now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr., is today, Aug. 28.

According to “Pass the Bill,” Boyd’s written account of the march, he was called upon as a New York City fireman to guard the Lincoln Memorial area.

“My job was to make sure Martin was safe,” he wrote in the Times, “so I was paying attention to my job. Consequently what I remember from the speech was more about the crowd than him.…

“I remember the impact it had on people, the audience. When he started to speak, there was silence. Thousands and thousands of people, and not a word. And then when he finished, it was an uproar, a crescendo, and this joyous noise. Then I realized, this is something.”

Before the pivotal event, Boyd wrote, “I had no idea about the march, or anything about the civil rights movement at all…. And I tell you, it changed me.… It ignited something in me that has lasted forever. Will always last.”

The 80-year-old Boyd recounts his involvement in starting the “Pass the bill!” call for civil rights legislation through the Washington Mall that day, as well as his later activism in the community and term as president of the Flushing (N.Y.) NAACP.

“Robert was selected by The New York Times to serve as a witness to history,” wrote L. Anthony Wise Jr., Pellissippi State president, in an emailed notice of the Times piece to faculty and staff.

“His story is a timely reminder of how events change lives and how people change communities. I am grateful to Bob for his service to our country and this College.”

To see the complete New York Times article, link here.