50 years later, vivid memories of MLK’s iconic speech - FOX 13 News

50 years later, vivid memories of MLK’s iconic speech

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the historic march on Washington, and a former nurse from Tampa remembers that day very well.

She was there in 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream Speech" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Leola Butler was just 20 years old at the time. She was living in West Palm Beach when she bought a ticket to the March on Washington.

It was billed as "The Freedom Train," and Butler arrived Aug. 28, 1963.

"We had gone, my husband and I, to marches in Tallahassee, sit-ins, dime stores, we integrated the pool, the local city pool, that kind of thing," Butler said. "But this was going to be huge. I just knew it."

And it was.

More than 250,000 people from all walks of life, from every state in the union, civil rights groups, labor groups, religious organization – all of them marched together for jobs and freedom.

It was the culmination of years of struggling for an end to racial segregation, jobs and the constitutional right to vote.

"We were young. We were full of fire," Butler said. "I was not afraid of anything or anybody."

Once she arrived, Butler was overwhelmed and overjoyed by what she saw.

"When we arrived there, a sea of people, people everywhere in jovial moods," she said. "The singing, the clapping, the arm and arm, it was a day that I'll never forget."

When Butler heard Dr. King's speech, she said she believed she could do anything.

Dr. King told the throngs of marchers to go back to their communities and make a difference.

Butler took it to heart. She became a registered nurse, helping her community, raising four college graduates and doing her part to live up to Dr. King's dream.

"I just had a job to do – to get there myself, and to help the next generation get there," she said.

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