This week’s interview is with Charles Owen Verill Jr., Past President of the Friends of the Law Library and Partner at Wiley Rein LLP. Mr. Verill recalls his experience at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The Library of Congress exhibition, “A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington,” opens today and runs through Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Describe your background leading up to the March.
I graduated from Duke Law School in June 1962. Having grown up in Maine, and graduated from Tufts prior to heading to North Carolina, I had only a limited exposure to racial issues. Three years at Duke were eye-opening as I witnessed segregation first hand and immediately identified with the lunch counter sit-ins in nearby Greensboro. Most of the Law Faculty was very pro-integration of the Law School which occurred while I was there to the consternation of the North Carolina Bar Association.
How did you first hear about the March? Why did you decide to go?
The March was widely publicized and we wanted to be part of a historic event. I went with my late wife and two year old daughter with friends from Connecticut. I recall we all wanted to show support for the marchers and the cause.
What was the atmosphere like the morning and day of the March?
I recall there was a sense of optimism and excitement. I do not recall any significant demonstrations of hostility although there were people in small groups of anti-marchers.
Can you describe your feeling when Dr King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech?
Looking back on that time, what are your thoughts as far as its effect on our country today?
The March and Dr. King’s speech were obviously significant catalysts in the effort to achieve racial equality and justice and had a lingering and forceful impact in the many battles ahead. I hope this anniversary will have a renewed impact on the struggle for racial equality and justice. As I was typing this response, I heard an NPR report on the new North Carolina voting legislation which is evidence of the more subtle but clear evidence that Dr. King’s dream has yet to be fully achieved.
Free and open to the public Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the exhibition is on display in the Graphic Arts Galleries on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.
“A Day Like No Other” and its programming were made possible by the generous support of the J. J. Medveckis Foundation, the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, the Law Library Various Donors Gift Fund, Roberta I. Shaffer, and an anonymous donor to the Prints and Photographs Division.
If you are interested in further reading on the March on Washington, the following are other Library of Congress blog posts on the topic: