SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - WTOC closely covered the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and the entire Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s.
Savannah was among many cities across the country participating in the Civil Rights Movement. Former WTOC Anchor and News Director, Doug Weathers, remembers covering African American demonstrators lying in the streets. He says what made Savannah very unique was that some of the Savannah police officers conducting crowd control were also African American.
"The black police officers played a great role in the demonstrations because they realized that the people had the right to demonstrate," Weathers said.
In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Savannah three times including when he praised the city for being ahead of so many other southern cities.
"I have said in the past that Savannah is one of the most de-segregated cities in the Deep South," Dr. King said.
During one of his trips, Dr. King gave a speech at the Second African Baptist church. It was the 'I Have a Dream' speech he would later take to Washington D.C.
In March of 1968, Dr. King was scheduled to come back to Savannah but canceled because of bad weather, and he would never make it back.
"I was at a ball game when somebody told me that Martin Luther King had been shot. I said, 'what,' Weathers said?
The news fueled even more demonstrations and violence around the country. Weathers only recalls two instances when buildings were set on fire. Savannah remained pretty calm because he says city leaders were determined to keep the peace.
"The agreement was, as long as there are no acts of violence, we'll let you march and protest and do whatever you need to do," Weathers said.
Fifty years later, Weathers says Savannah is hardly the example it once was. He believes if Dr. King came to Savannah today, he would be disappointed.
"He would never in his life dreamed that someone would have the audacity to pick up a gun and shoot somebody else right there. He would have never would have thought that would happen, especially with the young folks," Weathers said. "He would have never thought that the young people would not have taken advantage of what they had done, put their lives on the line and opened up all of these doors for them not to take advantage of what he had done."
While most people know who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is, Weathers believes most people don't know enough about what he did. It starts with education and leading by the examples he set.
"You've got to stop thinking about who's fault it is and who resisting every time you turn around," Weathers said. "And resisting the progress that somebody else is trying to make. You've got to stop that. You've got to reach an agreement to come up with an idea to improve your life. You've got to do something right and do something that everybody can benefit from."