I had seen this story yesterday, and been not quite sure what to make of it – some folks said they couldn’t find anything to verify Mitt Romney’s story of his father, Michigan Governor George Romney, marching with Martin Luther King.
Romney said he remembered watching it, and David Broder had apparently made a reference to it in one of his books. And in the passing decades, records get lost, photos (if any) get lost. Memories fade.
But it looks like Mitt Romney and his campaign are being forced to back off the claim.
On Wednesday, Romney’s campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative.
“He was speaking figuratively, not literally,” Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
The campaign was responding to questions raised by the Free Press and other media after a Boston publication challenged the accuracy of Mitt Romney’s account…
The Boston Phoenix reported Wednesday it could find no evidence that Romney and King ever marched together.
Mitt Romney’s older brother, Detroit attorney Scott Romney, said he recalls his father telling him the elder Romney marched with King, possibly in 1963, but he could not remember exactly when the event took place.
Fehrnstrom called the Romney brothers’ recollection and the historical materials a “pretty convincing case that George Romney did march with Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders in Michigan.”
UPDATE: Team Romney unloads a massive amount of information, documenting ties between George Romney and King and the rest of the civil rights movement. The only account tht I see has Romney actually marching with King is the Broder book’s account, but it appears that Romney appeared at several civil-rights related events, some, it appears, organized by King.
(In fact, if I were Romney, I wouldn’t be touting the fact that my father walked with King; I’d be touting that King told an interviewer he thought George Romney would make a good president!)
GOV. GEORGE ROMNEY AND DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
FACT: In The Summer Of 1963, Governor Romney Participated In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Freedom Marches” In Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
In 1963, George Romney Gave The Keynote Address At The Conference That Sparked The Martin Luther King “Freedom Marches” In Detroit. “The establishment of these human relations groups came in the wake of several major events (besides the embarrassing racist practices of such suburbs as Dearborn), which took place in 1963 and helped galvanize interracial support and cooperation for integrated housing. 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 to dramatize the need for black housing. … Governor George Romney gave the keynote speech at this conference, in which he pledged to use the power of the state to achieve housing equality in Michigan.” (Joe T. Darden, Detroit, Race And Uneven Development, 1987, p. 132)
Governor Romney Marched In July 1963 In An NAACP-Sponsored March Through Grosse Pointe. “The next couple of NAACP marches into the suburbs were more pleasant. Both Grosse Pointe and Royal Oak Township welcomed the interracial marchers. Close to 500 black and white marchers, including many Grosse Pointers, marched in ‘the Pointes’ that July. Governor George Romney made a surprise appearance in his shirt sleeves and joined the parade leaders.” (Joe T. Darden, Detroit, Race And Uneven Development, 1987, p. 132)
· Detroit Free Press: “With Gov. Romney a surprise arrival and marching in the front row, more than 500 Negroes and whites staged a peaceful antidiscrimination parade up Grosse Pointe’s Kercheval Avenue Saturday. … ‘the elimination of human inequalities and injustices is our urgent and critical domestic problem,’ the governor said. … [Detroit NAACP President Edward M.] Turner told reporters, ‘I think it is very significant that Governor Romney is here. We are very surprised.’ Romney said, ‘If they want me to lead the parade, I’ll be glad to.’” (“Romney Joins Protest March Of 500 In Grosse Pointe,” Detroit Free Press, 6/29/63)
· In Their 1967 Book, Stephen Hess And David Broder Wrote That George Romney “Marched With Martin Luther King Through The Exclusive Grosse Point Suburb Of Detroit.” “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.” (Stephen Hess And David Broder, The Republican Establishment: The Present And Future Of The G.O.P., 1967, p. 107)
FACT: As Governor Of Michigan, George Romney Fought For Civil Rights And Marched In Support Of Martin Luther King Jr.
George Romney Was A Strong Proponent Of Civil Rights And Created Michigan’s First Civil Rights Commission. “The governor’s record was one of supporting civil rights. He helped create the state’s first civil rights commission and marched at the head of a protest parade in Detroit days after violence against civil rights marchers in Selma, Ala., in 1965.” (Todd Sprangler, “Romney Fields Questions On King,” Detroit Free Press, 12/20/07)
In 1967, George Romney Was Praised At A National Civil Rights Rally For His Leadership. “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.’ The potential GOP presidential nominee left the rally before it ended.” (“Romney Praised At Civil Rights Rally In Atlanta,” The Chicago Defender, 9/30/67)
Photograph: “Dr. Martin Luther King speaking to graduate student Laura L. Leichliter (center) and Michigan’s First Lady Mrs. Lenore Romney in February 1965.” (Instructional Media Center Collection At Michigan State University Archives And Historical Collections)
George Romney Fought Discrimination In Housing. “President Nixon tapped then Governor of Michigan, George Romney, for the post of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. While serving as Governor, Secretary Romney had successfully campaigned for ratification of a state constitutional provision that prohibited discrimination in housing.” (U.S. Department Of Housing And Urban Development Official Web Site, www.hud.gov, Accessed 12/19/07)
Photograph: “More than 100 angry white protesters balked at efforts by then-Housing Secretary George Romney, in car, to open their new neighborhoods to blacks.” (Gordon Trowbridge and Oralandar Brand-Williams, “A Policy Of Exclusion,” Detroit News, 1/14/02)
FACT: In 1965, George Romney Led A March In Michigan To Protest Selma.
In 1965, George Romney Led A Protest Parade Of Some 10,000 People In Detroit. “Rarely has public opinion reacted so spontaneously and with such fury. In Detroit, Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh and Michigan’s Governor George Romney led a protest parade of 10,000 people.” (“Civil Rights – The Central Point,” Time Magazine, www.time.com, 10/5/83)
· The Days Of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In Detroit, Governor George Romney and Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh called for a march to protest what had happened in Selma.” (Jim Bishop, The Days Of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1971, p. 385)
FACT: Martin Luther King Jr. “Spoke Positively” About The Possible Presidential Candidacy Of George Romney.
In His Pulitzer-Prize Winning Biography Of Dr. King, David Garrow Notes That King “Spoke Positively” About The Possible Presidential Candidacy Of George Romney. “King spoke positively about the possible candidacies of republicans George Romney, Charles Percy, and Nelson Rockefeller. He also stressed the need for greater Afro-American unity, including reaching out to segments of the black community that were not committed to nonviolence.” (David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 2006, p. 575)
FACT: George Romney Attended King’s Funeral In 1968.
George Romney Attended King’s Funeral In 1968. “Vice President Hubert Humphrey represented the White House. Senator and Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy; Mrs. John F. Kennedy; Governor and Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller of New York; the mayor of New York City, John V Lindsay; and Michigan’s governor, George Romney, were present.” (Octavia Vivian, Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King, 2006, p. 99)
· George Romney Joined Other Prominent Americans In Attending King’s Funeral. “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 Scott King, sitting with her family front and center in front of the casket, looked lovely and courageous and dignified in a black mourning veil.” (Franklin Miller Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1987, p. 517)
· After King’s Assassination, George Romney Declared An Official Period Of Mourning, Ordered All Flags To Be Flown At Half Staff And Said King’s Death Was “A Great National Tragedy.” “On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., where he had gone to lead a civil rights march. The following day, Michigan Gov. George Romney declared an official period of mourning for King. The period extended through King’s funeral. Romney ordered all flags on public buildings to be flown at half staff and asked that the same be done on private buildings. Gov. Romney, in an official statement, said: “The assassination of Martin Luther King is a great national tragedy. At a time when we need aggressive nonviolent leadership to peacefully achieve equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities for all, his leadership will be grievously missed.” (“Rearview Mirror: Detroit Reacts To King’s Assassination,” The Detroit News, 4/4/07)