1958-1968 - Association with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Early in 1958, Dr. Simpkins met the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Chicago. They became friends, and Dr. Simpkins invited Dr. King to Shreveport for the United Christian Movement Conference on Registration and Voting in August, 1958. Dr. King’s visit to Shreveport provided encouragement for community leaders involved in the civil rights struggles. On August 14, 1958, in an address at Shreveport's Galilee Baptist Church, Dr. King recognized the tremendous impact that Dr. Simpkins was having on the movement. He opened his inspirational presentation with words of encouragement and thanks for Dr. Simpkins’ leadership.

“Distinguished pulpit associates, my Christian friends. I need not cause to say how very delighted I am to be here this evening and to be a part of this occasion. I have long wanted to come to Shreveport and I have long admired the courageous work that is being done here. And so to be here and see it first hand and to meet the citizens of this community is a great privilege and a great opportunity for me.

I want to commend the leaders of this community, the leaders of your Christian Association here for the great work that has already been done and the great work that will be done in the future. I want to commend these ministers. Now I have had the good fortune of working with many of your minsters in our Southern Christian Leadership Conference and it is a great honor and great privilege to work with them and to see their dedication and their devotion to the cause of freedom. Then I have had the good fortune of working with Dr. Simpkins also in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I haven’t lived very long but the few years that I have lived I have met quite a few people. I can say to you very sincerely that Dr. Simpkins is one of the most dedicated and devoted persons that I know in this whole area of freedom and civil rights. Then I want to say this too, I will say it because it needs to be said. Dr. Simpkins is a unique person. In the sense that he doesn’t have to do what he does he is relatively comfortable I would imagine. He is a professional man. Some of our professional people get in comfortable positions and they forget about the masses. But I have seen him time and time again; leave his office, leave a day’s work when he could make a good sum of money. Close his office to come to meetings at Southern Christian Leadership Conference and help men and women solve problems that they are facing every day. Now I think this is a commendable thing and something that you should be proud of in having a man like that in your community.”

Those who attended this conference have noted that Dr. King’s speech at Galilee takes on additional significance because it was the precursor for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Four years later, in an article in the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King again recognized Dr. Simpkins for his commitment and willingness to civil rights by putting himself in harm’s way.

“How marvelous it is though that C.O. Simpkins and others cast in the same mold day by day risk all because they have an abiding faith that America can realize the democratic potential despite the terror in the South. Can we ever repay them enough?”

In addition to his local work with the UCS, Dr. Simpkins served as a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and served as Vice-President under Dr. King, who was the president.

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