FORT WAYNE – Neatly dressed with white shirts and ties, five men line up for the camera with signs crudely drawn demanding racial separation.
Standing across the street from the Scottish Rite Auditorium as throngs entered to hear Martin Luther King speak, one of them tells a reporter they are rightist. A car with a West Virginia license plate and flying a Confederate flag circles the block a few times.
The pickets, all men, were orderly and voluntarily gave their names. One said 10 others failed to appear, according to FBI records. It was the only demonstration during King’s stay.
The Journal Gazette attempted to find the men in the photo with limited success.
Russell Oberley, then 32, is one of them. Today, 50 years later and living in Florida, he isn’t interested in talking about it.
I was the man that crucified him, Oberley said without explaining. Asked his thoughts today, he added, They ain’t changed any.
Pressed to describe why he and the others picketed King that day, Oberley said: Let’s just leave it alone. I don’t want to talk about it.
Richard M. Faith, another of the pickets, died in Oakland, Calif., said his stepdaughter Stephanie Lile. Talking by phone from Oakland, Lile said Faith married her mother late in life. Faith would be 69 had he lived.
Lile, after checking with her mother in the same room, said Faith had mentioned King but he was totally against talking to anybody about it. Her mother declined to speak to The Journal Gazette.
Asked whether he regretted his views 50 years ago, Lile first said Faith never regretted anything.
Her mother then corrected her. Faith’s views were unclear, Lile’s mother told her, because he didn’t talk about it.
Another of the men did not want to talk after The Journal Gazette relayed messages to him through a relative in Fort Wayne.