George Raveling was then a 26-year old assistant basketball coach at Villanova in Philadelphia when he was recruited to become a security guard during the inaugural March on Washington keynoted by the pioneer of the civil rights movement Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.
Its is a day and time that will forever be etched in the history of America. Monuments have been built, lessons have been taught and a nation has come to grips with its ugly past.
It was a day when Dr. King, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, delivered one of the great speeches in history and legend has it that it wasn’t even planned.
Raveling stood about few feet away from Dr. King as he delivered the since revolutionary ‘I Have A Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
As Dr. King concluded the speech, Raveling asked him if he could have the copy of it, and King handed to him the three page original copy.
“It was just an impulse reaction,” Raveling, now 76, continues to explain it today. “I’d like to be able to say I had it all figured out, but … it’s like hitting the lottery.”
This week on the 50th anniversary of the March, the speech will be revisited as thousands converge of the site of the memorable occasion.
Raveling, the former USC basketball coach and now Director International Basketball for Nike, now has the speech stored in a bank vault.
For a number of years I have interviewed raveling about the copy of the speech on the anniversary of Dr. King’s national holiday, but this week it looms even larger.
Raveling has been inundated with request for interviews, but he has also managed to create his own legacy and make his own historical impact on race relations in America.
The Washington, D.C. native attended St. Michael’s High School in Hoban Heights, Pennsylvania, and was an assistant coach at his alma mater Villanova, and at Maryland. In 2013, he received the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Raveling has been inducted into the following Hall of Fames: Washington State, Pennsylvania, Villanova, and Black Coaches Association.
Many would say his early years were spent in poverty although George once said, “I didn’t know we were poor until I got to college and the professors told me I was.” That quote is indicative of Raveling’s outlook on life. When asked about the difference between today and when he grew up, George’s remark was, “Five decades ago, family values were sacred. Women were still sacred. You had an extended family. You don’t have the extended family anymore.”
Raveling graduated from Villanova with a BS degree in Economics, he began a career as a marketing analyst for the Sun Oil Company. It was at this time period in his life that he had the opportunity to serve as extra security for the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – on the day Dr. King gave, arguably, the greatest speech of all-time, the “I Have a Dream Speech.” That day was memorable for all Americans, but none more than Raveling.
Excerpts from George raveling’s book “Coaching for Success’ was included in this story