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GEORGE ROMNEY — WORKING WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

In a Coordinated Effort, Both Led a Civil Rights March on the Same Day

Gov George Romney planned to march on the same day as Dr. King then led the march on the same day for the same purpose, in a national show of support for Dr. King.

“On Sunday March 7, 1965, 500 civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, received brutal beatings at the hands of state troopers... Determined to overcome brute force with moral principle, Martin Luther King called for another march on Tuesday, March 9. Civil rights champions from around the nation responded to King's call... on Tuesday... the troopers had restrained themselves, thanks to the many prominent people marching and the presence of national television coverage. Mother described the gathering after the march. ''Everyone squeezed into a tiny church. We sang We Shall Overcome and King spoke. It was so hot everyone was perspiring; we were so close together we could feel each other breathe. The feeling was victorious.'' ”

[After Bloody Sunday] “Martin was stunned... He promised to return on Tuesday to lead a second march that same day... Throughout the nation, there was an eruption of support for Selma's downtrodden. The NAACP asked President Johnson to send troops to the city. Again the personalities and organizations that had helped in the past rushed to Selma... Thousands of those who did not come joined sympathy marches, such as the one held in Toronto and the Detroit march, where Governor George Romney and Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh led ten thousand down the city's main artery. The crisis of national proportions that Martin needed to unleash federal intervention in Selma and accelerate the passage of the promised voting legislation could not have been more consummately realized...”

“Wednesday began with both of the major papers, the Times and the Post, giving headline coverage to the preceding day's events, including sympathy marches... In Detroit, Michigan's governor, George Romney, and Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh had led a crowd of some ten thousand through the downtown area at midday.”

“The civil rights movement was both brutal and triumphant in March 1965, as Alabama state police assaulted protesters crossing Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge on what became known as Bloody Sunday... days later, Martin Luther King Jr. led a larger march... There were dozens of marches across the country made in concert with King's trek; for instance, 10,000 people joined Governor George Romney in a demonstration in Detroit.”

“In Detroit on Tuesday, Governor George Romney, a Republican, and Mayor James Cavanough, a Democrat, had led ten thousand marchers five times around the federal building to protest the brutality of Bloody Sunday.”

“King led 1,500 Negroes and whites from Selma Mar. 9 in another unsuccessful effort to march to Montgomery... Michigan Gov. George Romney and Detroit Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh led 10,000 persons in a Detroit march Mar. 9.”

Both Led Civil Rights "Freedom Marches" in the Detroit Area in the Same Week

23 JUN 1963 125,000 activists joined in the March to Freedom down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march that was organized as an act of solidarity for the move toward legal and social equality of the races.”

“An estimated 125,000 Negroes and whites participated June 23 in a giant freedom parade and rally in Detroit to demonstrate opposition to discrimination... Romney did not make public appearances on Sundays because of his Mormon beliefs, but he led about 450 demonstrators on a "freedom march" through the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe June 29.”

This was also published in:

“Governor George Romney, an uninvited but warmly-welcomed guest, joined more than 600 NAACP demonstrators and white sympathizers in a march held in the Pointe Saturday afternoon, June 29. A rally on the Grosse Pointe High School grounds followed the march.”

This is summarized in the following February, 1967 issue of Harper's Magazine:

“When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King marched in Detroit three years ago, Romney marched with him. He is proud that he helped write a state constitution that has the most comprehensive civil-rights guarantees in the nation, including open occupancy in housing.”

Governor Romney was involved with the Martin Luther King March

Governor Romney gave the keynote address at the conference in January that sparked the Martin Luther King "Freedom Marches" in Detroit. In addition to their both leading a "Freedom March" in Detroit in the same week, Gov. Romney declared the day King was to march "Freedom March Day," which probably helped in its becoming the largest civil rights march by that point in American history. Governor Romney then sent 2 representatives to the march that Dr. King led, and one of Governor Romney's representatives spoke at that rally before Dr. Martin Luther King spoke.

“In 1963, George Romney Gave The Keynote Address At The Conference That Sparked The Martin Luther King "Freedom Marches" in Detroit... "The first event was the Metropolitan Conference on Open Occupancy held in Detroit in January 1963. The second event was the Martin Luther King 'Freedom' March in June of the same year, the spinoffs of which were several Detroit NAACP-sponsored interracial marches into Detroit suburbs". (Detroit, Race and Uneven Development by Joe T. Darden, 1987, pg 132.)”

“The Walk to Freedom was a tremendous success. It was held on Sunday, June 23, 1963. Some 125,000 peaceful demonstrators took part and raised more than $40,000 for the cause. State and local officials, including Mayor Jerome C. Cavanaugh, took part. Governor George Romney did not march because he did not engage in politics on the Sabbath, but he did declare Sunday "Freedom March Day." ”

“The summer of 1963 in Detroit featured the largest civil rights march in American history to that point... It was planned for June 23. At the end of the four-mile march down Woodward Avenue to Cobo Hall, Martin Luther King Jr. was to address the crowd.”

“An estimated 125,000 Negroes and whites participated June 23 in a giant freedom parade and rally in Detroit to demonstrate opposition to discrimination... Speakers included the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and UAW Pres. Walter P. Reuther. Other participants included the Very Rev. John Weaver of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, ex-Gov. John B. Swainson and 2 representatives of Gov. George Romney. (Romney did not make public appearances on Sundays because of his Mormon beliefs, but he led 450 demonstrators on a "freedom march" through the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe June 29.)”

This was also published in:

“I heard him deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech in three distinctly different situations. It was slightly different each time only because he was in the process of smoothing out the rough spots. He responded to his audience as an actor in a play responds. He could not change the lines but he needed the emotional stimulation of their approval. This was most obvious when he spoke at the Detroit Freedom March in 1963.

“More than two hundred thousand Black people "walked to freedom with Dr. Martin Luther King." This was the first Freedom March and was considerably larger than the Washington March, which was national in scope. The rally following the march was held at Cobo Hall. The Arena and every convention auditorium was jammed to capacity, and an overflow of more than one hundred and fifty thousand Black people filled the streets and the area adjacent to the Convention Center. It was undoubtedly the largest crowd that Dr. King had ever seen. I spoke just before him on the program. The mayor, Walter Reuther, and a representative of Governor Romney had spoken, even though the committee at my insistence had unanimously voted to keep all white people off the platform and to make the meeting a protest meeting. Black people did not "walk to freedom with Dr. Martin Luther King" to listen to white liberals [Democrat Mayor Cavanaugh and UAW President Reuther]... The crowd began to boo and scream for white folks to sit down” when Cavanaugh and Reuther got up to speak.

Both Spoke at Rallies at Grosse Pointe High School, in a Detroit suburb

“A rally on the Grosse Pointe High School grounds followed the march...

“Governor Romney received a standing ovation as he began and finished his ten-minute speech. He told the crowd that his purpose for taking part in the march was that "the elimination of human inequality and discrimination is the most critical and urgent issue in the United States."

“ "Until we eliminate inequality," he said, "our words will have a hallow sound to the people of the world" ”

“While a heterogeneous group of some 2,700 persons filled Grosse Pointe High School's auditorium-gymnasium to capacity last Thursday night to hear Nobel Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King speak on "The Future of Integration," some 200 pickets from the ultra-right wing organization, Breakthrough, quietly demonstrated in front of the building.”

Both Led a Civil Rights March down Woodward Ave in Detroit

“In Detroit, ten thousand persons joined Governor George Romney and Detroit Mayor James Cavanaugh in a protest march down Woodward Avenue.”

23 JUN 1963 125,000 activists joined in the March to Freedom down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march that was organized as an act of solidarity for the move toward legal and social equality of the races.”

On multiple Occasions Dr. King visited Detroit and Gov. Romney visited Atlanta

On multiple occasions Dr. King visited Detroit, the city where Gov. George Romney lived. Gov. George Romney also visited Atlanta, where Dr. King lived, to conduct civil rights business and in a later visit to attend his funeral.

23 JUN 1963 125,000 activists joined in the March to Freedom down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march that was organized as an act of solidarity for the move toward legal and social equality of the races.”

Martin Luther King and Lenore Romney



“Dr. Martin Luther King speaking to graduate student Laura L. Leichliter (center) and Michigan's First Lady Mrs. Lenore Romney in February 1965.”

Viola Liuzzo left Detroit for Alabama to participate in a 54 mile civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that began on Sunday March 21st and finished on Thursday, March 25th, 1965. On the day it finished, she was helping transport people between Montgomery and Selma. “In Selma,... Mrs. Liuzzo had been driving civil rights workers when she was ambushed... There was a witness to the shooting,... and ballistics tests would be needed to verify what kind of weapon killed her.” (pg 136-163)

“Saturday brought the Liuzzo family the news that Governor George Romney of Michigan had declared Monday and Tuesday days of statewide mourning for Viola Liuzzo... Governor Romney spent 45 minutes with the Liuzzos and later told the press that Viola's death "reminded me of the death of Joan of Arc." Ministers throughout the city--both black and white--spoke of Viola Liuzzo's sacrifice in their Sunday sermons... Reverend Fulton Bradley of the Tabernacle Baptist Church proclaimed that "...Mrs. Liuzzo is another of the great martyrs who lived and died for a cause." Martin Luther King, who had announced that he would attend the Liuzzo funeral, appeared on Sunday's Meet the Press... The family had invited 100 guests (including Martin Luther King, Jr., who did attend), and after they were seated, others--estimated at about 150--were allowed to join them [at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Detroit].” (pg 176-178)

“While a heterogeneous group of some 2,700 persons filled Grosse Pointe High School's auditorium-gymnasium to capacity last Thursday night to hear Nobel Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King speak on "The Future of Integration," some 200 pickets from the ultra-right wing organization, Breakthrough, quietly demonstrated in front of the building.”


“Michigan Gov. George Romney walked into a Negro Civil Rights rally in the heart of Atlanta to the chants of 'We Want Romney' and to hear protests from Negroes about city schools. 'They had invited me to come and I was interested in hearing things that would give me an insight into Atlanta,' the Michigan Republican said. Led by Hosea Williams, a top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the all-Negro rally broke into shouts and song when Romney arrived. 'We're tired of Lyndon Baines Johnson,' Williams said from a pulpit in the Flipper Temple AME Church as Romney sat in a front row pew. 'Johnson is sending black boys to Vietnam to die for a freedom that never existed,' Williams said. Pointing to Romney, Williams brought the crowd of 200 to its feet when he said, 'He may be the fella with a little backbone.' Williams said Romney could be 'the next President if he acts right.' ”

“When we reached the [Ebenezer Baptist] church, there were perhaps one hundred thousand people in the immediate vicinity, all of them seemingly trying to get inside a church that could hold but eight hundred... Many businesses had closed for the day, and there was a great deal of respect being shown for the memory of Martin Luther King... Inside was the greatest galaxy of prominent national figures there had ever been in Atlanta at one time: Robert Kennedy, George Romney, Mayor Carl Stokes of Cleveland, Nixon Rockefeller, Harry Belafonte, and an endless array of others equally as famous. Coretta King, sitting with her family front and center in front of the casket, looked lovely and courageous and dignified in a black mourning veil.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. died April 4, 1968

Throughout the same years King marched & rallied, Romney also marched & rallied

“George Romney marched in civil rights actions in 1962, '63, '64. His young son was with him on that” (Hugh Hewitt)

"Hugh Hewitt is an author, law professor and broadcast journalist." Hugh Hewitt did extensive research on Romney and wrote a book on Mitt Romney.

[In March 1965] “Michigan governor George Romney was leading a Joshua-like march of ten thousand people five times around the Detroit federal building, and six hundred picketed a New York City FBI office to demand U.S. protection for Negro voting rights in Alabama.”

“August, 1967: The Flint City Commission (predecessor to the City Council) voted against a fair housing ordinance, which was designed to prevent discrimination in housing. Mayor Floyd McCree, the city's first black mayor, threatened to resign. Residents staged a sleep-in in front of City Hall. Gov. George Romney showed up at a unity rally at the end of a 10-day protest, which was attended by about 4,000 people.”

The result: “The Commission reversed course and approved the ordinance, but a group against the ordinance collected petitions and forced it to go before voters... Voters approved the housing ordinance, the first of its kind approved in the nation. Flint makes national news for civil rights.”

“Michigan Gov. George Romney walked into a Negro Civil Rights rally in the heart of Atlanta to the chants of 'We Want Romney' and to hear protests from Negroes about city schools. 'They had invited me to come and I was interested in hearing things that would give me an insight into Atlanta,' the Michigan Republican said. Led by Hosea Williams, a top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the all-Negro rally broke into shouts and song when Romney arrived. 'We're tired of Lyndon Baines Johnson,' Williams said from a pulpit in the Flipper Temple AME Church as Romney sat in a front row pew. 'Johnson is sending black boys to Vietnam to die for a freedom that never existed,' Williams said. Pointing to Romney, Williams brought the crowd of 200 to its feet when he said, 'He may be the fella with a little backbone.' Williams said Romney could be 'the next President if he acts right.' ”

Books and Publications Have Stated Gov. Romney Marched With Dr. King

“When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King marched in Detroit three years ago, Romney marched with him. He is proud that he helped write a state constitution that has the most comprehensive civil-rights guarantees in the nation, including open occupancy in housing.”

“George Romney... He has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit and he is on record in support of full-coverage Federal open-housing legislation.”

“As Mitt Romney recalled in his address, his father was able to remind people that he had marched with Martin Luther King Jr. (through upscale Grosse Pointe, Mich., in support of open-housing legislation) But it was not until I reread what Stephen Hess and I had written about the elder Romney in a 1967 book that I was reminded that he, too, had to explain his religion to voters... For me, with a lifetime of nothing but very positive relationships with Mormons, Romney's religion is as much of an asset as his family heritage. He was raised right by a couple I greatly admired, and the values they gave him are exactly those I would hope a leader would have.”

“George Romney... He once marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“Any doubts on this score were dispelled on July 23, 1963, when a massive civil rights demonstration led by Reverend King took place in Detroit... Mayor Cavanagh, Governor George Romney, and Walter Reuther were among the prominent whites marching with Reverend King.”

“Any doubts on this score were dispelled on July 23, 1963, when a massive civil rights demonstration led by Reverend King took place in Detroit... Mayor Cavanagh, Governor George Romney, and Walter Reuther were among the prominent whites marching with Reverend King.”

“As governor, [George] Romney sponsored a minimum wage law and advocated increased unemployment benefits. He also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on one occasion and fought for an open housing law in Michigan. As president of American Motors from 1954-1962, Romney pulled the company from the brink of bankruptcy by pushing for smaller, more efficient cars like the Rambler--later named Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" in 1963--at a time when the Big Three auto manufacturers were still content on building oversized, over fueled and overpowered vehicles. Romney's prescience saved the company.”

Some details in some more detailed accounts listed here are incorrect. If one requires a specific, narrow interpretation to be dictated of all these accounts, they might all be in error. For more insight, please read the next section.

Conclusion from the data

Given the support Governor Romney showed for Dr. King and the respect Dr. King showed in return, the common cause they shared and the number of times they were in the same city, most likely Dr. King and Gov. Romney met on at least one occasion. However, since there is no known verifiable record that Gov. George Romney marched at Martin Luther King's side in a public demonstration, they probably did not march side by side at a rally. But Governor George Romney did march with Dr. Martin Luther King, as the record has shown. Remember, side-by-side represents only one of several common ways to take an action with someone.

'with' includes the following common meaning: "used as a function word to indicate a close association in time." (Webster's Dictionary)

After all, if they marched at the same time over the same civil-rights incident, and one marched in support of the other, and Dr. King knew others outside Selma were supporting him and marching with him, could it not be said that George Romney marched with Martin Luther King?

Another common usage is "on the side of : FOR" (Webster's Dictionary) as used in the following book:

“I was reading an issue of Life Magazine featuring a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. on the twentieth anniversary of his assassination. I was inspired by the many touching articles, photos, and thoughtful testimonials honoring the noble virtues for which Dr. King lived... Many white people marched with Dr. King, and many more do today.”

Certainly Gov Romney marched with Martin Luther King in that context as well. Yet another common usage of 'with' is "used as a function word to indicate one that shares in an action, transaction or arrangement" (Webster's Dictionary) such as works with Dr. King for civil rights or marches with him for civil rights, which Governor George Romney also did.

Certainly, given Governor George Romney's strong support for civil rights, strong support for Martin Luther King, and the marches he led for both, no one fully informed can honestly deny that he did "march with Martin Luther King," in several contexts, even if not side by side with Dr. King, unless they are incredibly blinded by hatred—political, religious or otherwise, insisting such a statement is untrue and dishonest, for as so eloquently stated by the civil rights advocate Walter Reuther, "When there is hatred in the heart, there is no room for reasoning in the head".