Lunch conversation with Richard Boddie

Alumni who met Martin Luther King Jr. at the University

Samantha Stephens and Lina Hinh, Contributing Writers

As part of MLK Week 2019, alumnus Richard Boddie ’61 spoke at a luncheon to discuss his experience meeting Martin Luther King Jr. during King’s visit to the University in 1958. Boddie was raised in Rochester, N.Y., a city that holds tremendous significance for him as it was the home to two great American liberty activists: woman’s suffragette Susan B. Anthony and abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass. During his years at the University, Boddie studied political science and English. Additionally, he was the first African American to run track at the University in 1961.

 

Boddie expressed his happiness to return to the University as a speaker. “I am happy to be back. You can’t imagine how stoked I am to be back. I am here,” he said. He first spoke about his time at the University and how pleased he was with his undergraduate years. As he looked around the room, Boddie mentioned that he was happy to see the diverse crowd sitting before him. When he first came to the University in 1957, he was one of three African Americans in attendance. “There were not a lot of black people attending Bucknell back then. There were only three. Bucknell seemed to have a three-negro rule because it was like that for years,” he said. He explained how he faced a lot of discrimination, but he brushed it off because as the son of a preacher; his core principle in life is to be non-violent and to keep pushing forward no matter what.

 

Boddie met King when King visited the University in 1958. Before the University had a chapel, church sessions were held in Davis Gym. He remembered that all of the students attended the talk and it was a big celebration. Boddie had the opportunity to meet King and they had a brief conversation. “We had a back and forth. He asked me my name and I told him, Boddie. Dr. King asked, ‘which Boddie are you from?’ I told him I was Chucky’s kid, and that’s when he knew who I was. He said, ‘Oh! Dick Boddie!’ I am sure no one else got that kind of reception,” Boddie said. Boddie’s father was a preacher who King had known through networking.

 

The MLK Week lunch conversation had an attendance of over 50 individuals, including students, professors, and staff. Boddie was the first speaker of this year’s MLK Week.

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