Gordon "Gunny" Gundrum remembers the 1963 March on Washington
WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- Gordon “Gunny” Gundrum, now 75, was the 25-year-old park ranger who stood next to Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial on that historic day back in 1963.
Gundrum's job was to protect those at the podium, and said that Mahalia Jackson was singing when he first spotted Dr. King talking to actor Charlton Heston, with King next in line to speak.
"He left Charlton Heston and went up on to a stage area where the TV cameras were and waved to the crowd," said Gunny. He added that their eyes met as King stepped to the podium.
"The crowd wasn't hearing him and I reached in front of him and adjusted the microphone," Gunny said.
And as that famous speech began, Gundrum explains he was so busy watching for trouble that he didn’t actually listen to the speech – though he soon learned how important it was.
"You began to feel it that day, very definitely the next day... And it seemed to almost never end for weeks after that," he said.
Gunny Gundrum says he is amazed at the role fate placed him in that day, and he and his wife keep a lot of the event's pictures at their home in Grafton, New York, where he was raised.
He still remembers what it was like back in 1963:
"People up here in Grafton saw me on TV -- I got 15 brother and sisters and they all started calling saying, 'Gunny's on TV!'"
Gundrum says his most startling incident involved a man pushing his way through the crowd toward the stage. He stopped him, then realized it was Sammy Davis, Jr. -- who was late.
Gunny says from then on, he paid attention to things like gospel music, the civil rights movement, and of course – the activities of Dr. King.
"I was quite saddened by this death... As I look back, it is amazing to myself that I was there. And that day was a day I'll never forget, for sure," he said.