Long before he was a basketball coach or Nike executive, George Raveling was a part of history.
On Aug. 28, 1963, Raveling stood beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the civil rights leader gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. Great story, right? It gets better: Raveling owns the original copy of the speech, which Dr. King gave to him after delivering it.
Raveling, now 76, has told the story many times over the years, and shared it with a national TV audience during Monday’s MLK Day college basketball coverage.
Raveling was 24 and living in Wilmington, Del., following his career as an All-American basketball player for Villanova. He and a friend, Warren Wilson, drove to D.C. to join the 100,000 people who were expected to march on Washington.
What happened next was fate intervening. Or genetics.
Raveling and Wilson were stopped by someone the day before the speech, and the big basketball players were asked if they would work security during the event. They agreed. Raveling says he and Wilson were so excited to participate that they showed up before everyone else and were assigned to protect the speaker on stage. Raveling can be seen in photos standing to King’s left during the speech.
After King finished, a quick-thinking Raveling asked for the speech. King turned and gave it to him.
Raveling has the speech, which is marked with underlining and other notations made by King, framed and in a bank vault. Interestingly, Raveling has noted that the original speech did not mention the “I have a dream” parts for which it was named, and that King deviated from his written speech. Raveling also says the speech was not titled.
A story from Time points out that King had talked about his dream in four previous speeches and likely was not planning to on this occasion. But King was captivating the audience and, at the urging of Mahalia Jackson, he finally talked about his dream.
“Of course nobody, including myself, realized that this was going to take on the historical significance that it did,” Raveling said.
Raveling, who says he was once denied a hotel room while traveling with his Villanova team because of his color, says the speech helped shape his life. He went on to coach at USC, Washington State and Iowa before becoming Nike’s Director of International Basketball.
Below is a video put together by “Inside the NBA” sharing Raveling’s story:
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