Civil rights icon told UD crowd 'system of segregation was on its deathbed.'
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opened his Nov. 29, 1964, address at the University of Dayton Fieldhouse with a joke.
King apologized for being more than one hour late, saying it was because of slick, snow-covered roads between Cincinnati and Dayton.
"Tonight I'd rather be Martin Luther King late than the late Martin Luther King," he said to laughter and applause.
A long-lost audio recording of that speech was discovered in late January by filmmaker David Schock of Grand Haven, Mich. He found the unlabeled reel-to-reel tape in a box of recordings by Herbert Woodward Martin, a UD poet and professor emeritus who is the subject of a film by Schock.
"Either somebody gave it to me because I was teaching an African-American literature class, or I picked it out of somebody's trash," said Martin of Washington Twp. "I probably never listened to it and did not play it for my students."
Martin is known for his performances of Paul Laurence Dunbar's dialect poems and his own works. He was a graduate student in Buffalo, N.Y., at the time of King's speech.
Speaking to more than 6,200 people, King said the system of segregation was on its deathbed, "and the only thing uncertain about it is how costly the segregationists will make the funeral."
His speech was met by protesters, according to a 1964 Dayton Daily News article about the event.
"The University of Dayton had a role in trying to raise this issue of justice," Schock said. "Yet at the same time the city of Dayton was split."
Schock has converted the audio to a digital file and enhanced the sound quality.
Martin was unsure about the tape's dollar value, or what he will do with his rare, historical find.
"I'm thinking that perhaps it ought to be with the rest of (King's) effects in Atlanta, but I haven't spoken to anyone there about that," Martin said.