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Shooting Some Stick with Dr. King

Don Rose 18 April 2018 2 Comments

I hadn’t intended to write anything midst the torrent of MLK remembrances on the 50th anniversary of his murder, but a friend showed me a series of photos the Tribune posted of his campaign in Chicago (1965-67) when I served as his local press secretary/speech writer/political advisor. Several of the images showed the Reverend Doctor in a West Side pool hall shooting a game with the late Al Raby (right), his co-chair of the Chicago Freedom Movement.


    The  event made the front pages of all the local newspapers, TV news, the networks and wire services, plus a big piece in Time Magazine.

   The friend remembered I had something to do with the setup and urged me to tell about it. So, taking a breather from from the perils of Syria, Iran, troops on the border, fixer lawyers, Comey’s book and related Trumpiana, here’s the back story.

     Dr. King was well covered by the media here. A news conference, an announcement, a speech, whatever, needed no gimmicks or stunts to get a full turnout of local and national reporters and cameras. Only twice did I resort to stunts, the first of which is pictured above.

    Here’s why:

    Although King was welcomed, admired–even idolized–in the African American communities, we got reports from organizers that in some black areas questions were raised about a “sanctified southern preacher,” or variations thereof, coming to reform Chicago.

   We thought it would be helpful to “humanize” him, make him more of a “street” guy. Knowing my pal Raby was a first-rate pool player–he had a regulation table in his living room–I got the idea that a pool game in the heart of the ghetto might help serve the purpose.

   Al asked the good reverend if he ever shot pool and lo! the reverend replied that he loved the game, having honed his skills during college days.

    A routine we undertook early in his stay was walk King through various black neighborhoods, trailed by a media flock, to acquaint him with the communities. So we set a walk through the West Side that would take them past a funky pool hall where Raby stopped and asked King would he like to take a break for a game of straight pool.

    It was electric.

   King shot his best stick, which was pretty good, but Raby was clearly the better player. The camera people–still and TV–went nuts, getting their own shots from every angle, making like they were filming “The Hustler.”

    For days after we heard nothing but reports of a new admiration of King, making us feel we had accomplished part of our goal.

    The only other “stunt” we resorted to came later, after a massive rally that filled Soldier Field and a march on City Hall.

   Some media guy proposed that King post his 12 (as I recall)demands on the doors of Richard J. Daley’s fortress, echoing Martin Luther’s nailing his theses to the doors of the church in the 16th century.  King used Scotch Tape.

    Photos and film of that event also went around the world.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Mark Miller Miller said:

    Great article!!!

    BTW, Al Raby was an unsung hero who did a tremendous amount to help
    minorities and the disadvantaged. November 2018 marks the 30th
    anniversary of his untimely passing.

  • Observant said:

    The same gimmick did not work as well for Dawn Clark Netsch.

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