By Charlotte Richter/Staff Writer
Lt. Col. Chaveso Cook, speechwriter for the secretary of the Army, shared stories from those who lived in the same era as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as it related to him during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance, hosted by Fort Leavenworth
and the Combined Arms Center, Jan. 20 in Eisenhower Auditorium.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and was assassinated April 4, 1968. He is remembered for
his contributions as a leader in the civil rights movement and his advocacy for non-violence. He was also a Baptist minister and the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel
Peace Prize. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed annually on the third Monday in
January; it is the only holiday observed as a National Day of Service.
Cook said during observances, King is often remembered through lists of famous quotes pulled from his speeches and personal life. He said that many people today only appreciate King’s memory from a distance, but others remember him more directly. Cook
said he chose to look back at his own life for the words, ideals and impact of King.
“There was this elderly teacher, gray-haired black lady, that none of us liked. She was curt. Her bifocals seemed to be more like a crystal ball, always on the lookout, thwarting any class clown’s attempt at shenanigans. She suffered no fool or any foolishness, and she had a huge scar on her face. It went from about her nose, skirted her jawline and
went up to the edge of her ear — a big nasty scar,” Cook said. “During the MLK observance at one time, they gathered all the students to sit before her … She calmly, reflectively, spoke about marching with none other than Dr. King. The sit-ins she joined, the vigils she attended, her participation in the movement, as she
called it, as well as the dogs that chased her, and the hoses that sprayed her.
“She ran her wrinkled finger across that scar from her nose all the way up to her ear and said that the water pressure from a hose that sprayed her, tore her face open like a box cutter. I looked at her and that scar different from then on, and I still do.”
Years ago Cook asked his mom, who grew up in segregated schools in South Carolina, if the United States would ever have a Black president.
“Mama J put it very flatly to me … With a certain tiredness in her eyes, ‘they killed the one we could’ve had,’ is what she said. I probed her further, asking of whom she was spoke. She said Dr. King.
“We didn’t grow up talking deeply around the table about civil rights or her upbringing, but that moment that night, in that short, sullen conversation, she recalled much of her childhood to me,” Cook said. “She talked about what Dr. King meant to all my aunts and uncles, and what it meant to those folks in the deep south when she was still going to
those segregated schools.”