Local man remembers MLK's march on Selma - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local man remembers MLK's march on Selma

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When Larry Stumme saw the images on the television, he knew he had to go.

“We've got to go be in Selma, Alabama,” he said. “We've got to be with King.”

It was 1965, and the Denver, Iowa resident was watching the news reports from ‘Bloody Sunday,' when white law enforcement officers attacked peaceful protesters led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then, Stumme had just graduated from Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, and was working as a pastor at an inner-city church in Dayton, Ohio.

He and his brother hopped a train, and headed south. They picked up a bus in Montgomery.

“When we came into Selma, the bus came in and the people were screaming and yelling as we came in, with pitchforks and clubs,” he said.

They joined up with the thousands of protestors to march back into Montgomery. It was the height of the civil rights movement, so they'd seen the violence on TV, but they were ready to make sacrifices for the cause.

“Even if it meant we were going to be beaten,” Stumme said.

Looking back at the news coverage, Stumme remembers marching across the bridge into town — 30 feet behind Dr. King.

“We got up on the bridge – it was kind of an arch – and we saw over the hill, police cars as far as the eye could see,” he said. “Just troops and troopers with helmets, riot gear — I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is real.'”

Protesters turned back peacefully that day. Dr. King told them why.

“He said, ‘A lot of you whites came down here to be martyrs,'” Stumme said. “‘That's not what this is about. I don't want you to die. I don't want anyone to die. I don't want to die,' he said.”

Now, Stumme works as a lawyer and pastor. He says the events in Alabama helped shape his life. Namely, that much has changed since then, but what hasn't worries him.

“There's still so much hate, so much ignorance and prejudice,” he said.

But he remembers watching the world change – you don't forget that.

“We were there,” he said.

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