Livingstone grad recalls events after assassination of MLK

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Forty years ago Friday ó April 4, 1968 ó Warren Arrington was a sophomore at Livingstone College when he learned of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He and his fellow students, Arrington remembered, were stunned. They gathered on the campus lawn and were told that across the nation, major cities were in flames as riots erupted at news of the civil rights leader’s death.
Livingstone’s leaders called students into an auditorium there on campus that night and addressed them. Arrington recalled that the student body president spoke as did members of the faculty, including the Rev. Edgar French, vice president of student affairs.
“He told us we had a choice,” Arrington remembered. “We could do what everyone else was doing or we could have a peaceful march.
“We chose to have a peaceful march.”
The day following King’s assassination, Livingstone’s students ó almost 1,200 of them ó lined up on Monroe Street outside the school’s main entrance. They marched to the Rowan County courthouse in downtown Salisbury.
“The marchers carried signs, virtually all pleading for peace and justice in the world, and many containing slogans which Dr. King had used in his many campaigns for nonviolent demonstrations in connection with the civil rights movement,” wrote Ned Cline, a reporter who covered the event for the Post. “Shoppers and clerks stopped and looked as the marchers passed. There were few words passed among spectators and none of the marchers spoke.”
On the courthouse steps, the Rev. Robert Clayton, a Livingstone professor said, “We are all Americans. We are not here to riot but to proclaim our belief in the ideals of Martin Luther King. We will not throw bricks, but we will throw ballots.”
Students and faculty members then joined for hymns before peacefully and quietly dispersing.
Arrington, a math major at Livingstone who worked as an accountant for years before founding American Safety Products, a Raleigh company of which he’s president, said the march to the courthouse remains one of his proudest moments as a Livingstone student.
“The community was real silent as we marched, everyone dressed in black,” Arrington said. “There wasn’t one word spoken from the college to the courthouse. I thought it was a very noble event.”
Arrington is a member of Livingstone’s board of directors and will return to Salisbury Friday for a meeting of the school’s National Alumni Association. The meeting takes place Friday and Saturday.
Arrington said he’d heard comment from fellow alumni about holding a gathering Friday to commemorate King’s death and the historic march that Livingstone students made 40 years ago.
According to students, such plans are in the works. They said an exhibit at the school’s cafeteria is planned for Friday, from about 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Dr. Sterling Whitener, who was a professor at Livingstone in 1968, will address students as to the dignified way their predecessors handled themselves following King’s assassination. Other speakers will also address students Friday.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or