National Shrine workers, Reginald Tobias and Walter Robinson, remember 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr.

11:52 AM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- For the past week, we have been hearing from those who were there on the National Mall for the original March on Washington.

Today, Reginald Tobias and Walter Robinson share their memories about a day and a speech that continue to inspire them.

When 17-year old Reginald Tobias turned on the TV in 1963 he saw some startling images. "There was so much going on in the South that we were despondent with all the assassinations and people being run over and hosed with heavy water and dogs biting them..." said Tobias.

He added, "I needed to go to the march."

Walter Robinson said, "You didn't get the jobs you should have gotten...and after fighting for the country, we were denied that."

That's why Walter Robinson, then a medical technician at the old Walter Reed Hospital marched FOR jobs and AGAINST bigotry in his own country. The WWII vet and member of the famed Buffalo Soldiers unit in the 92nd Infantry division, felt it was his duty.

I met Mr. Robinson, now 92, and his boss, Mr. Tobias, who is 67, on the job at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. They've worked side by side for 13 years, members of the security staff. They didn't know each other back then, but they both remember that other August 28th as if it were yesterday.

"It was a hot day," remembered Robinson. "...We have to be up at V Street at around 8 or 9 o'clock. Then we started the march."

Robinson recalled, "On the way down there was singing. Everybody was very happy going down listening to the speech. It was very encouraging."

About the same time, Tobias, a student at Phelps Vocational was making his way down to the Lincoln Memorial on his bike. "...from 53rd and East Capitol all the way down to the Mall...me and 3 of my classmates, my best friends," shared Tobias.

He said, "We got to the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. It was there that I did see Dr. King, just the back of his head."

The teens were overwhelmed and startled at the size of the crowd.

Tobias remembered, "Seeing the crowd rocking back and forth singing 'We Shall Overcome Someday' and I was on the steps just waving. Such a fine time, I'll never forget. It was beautiful."

Then Dr. King gave his speech. "He had people actually weeping," said Robinson.

They left that evening feeling hopeful, with a promise of better days ahead. Those days came. They pray now for the next generations -- they'll be able to support and educate their families, and come together to help their underprivileged fellow Americans.

Wednesday afternoon, joining churches across the country, the bells at the Shrine will ring at 3 p.m., the exact time Dr. King began his "I Have A Dream" speech.

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