Tuesday, October 4, 2016

JBMDL- 100th Anniversary July 1917-2017


Proposal for the utilization of base history to promote, support and revitalize JBMDL as a permanent military installation.

1917 - 2017 - A Century of Military Training at Fort Dix - JBMDL

From Camp Dix to JBMDL - 100 Years of Military Training

July 16, 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of JBMDL as a military base beginning with the training of doughboys for World War I.

The idea is to utilize the base history to promote the base for the future by producing a web site, video and glossy color 1st Edition Hardbound coffee table size book, with a soft bound edition and digital Internet - DVDs, audio and documentary film versions that can tell the base story on various media platforms.

The unique and fascinating history of JBMDL should be used to educate soldiers, officers, legislators and the general public of the everlasting value of the base as a public resource dedicated to the security of the country.

Journalist and historian William Kelly, a local area resident, as the author of two similar history books - 300 Years at the Point and Birth of the Birdie - The First 100 Years of Golf at Atlantic City Country Club, is uniquely qualified to research, write and edit a history of the base. As with his other books, such a project not only makes a profit with the public sales, but serves as a convincing prospectus to legislators, defense contractors and potential partners on future missions.

This project will also serve as a comprehensive history of the base for future students and historians and provide a platform for planning and implementing operations into the near and distant future.


The book and media production will be written and presented in chronological order and divided into decades, wars, individual profiles and graphics, with photos and films composing half of the bulk, with narrative text, sidebars and captions the rest.

1917 - WORLD WAR I and the formation of the Modern Army by General Pershing

A long period of peace in Europe suddenly ended and the Continent burst into flames, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne by a fanatical Serbian nationalist in the Balkan City of Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

The United States was drawn into the war in April 1917 with the death of Americans in ships sunk by German U-boat submarines in the North Atlantic, especially the Lusitania.

“The United States protested the violation of neutral rights to both belligerents but in stronger terms to Germany since its actions involved the destruction of life….With public opinion aroused, Congress on 6 April 1917 declared war on Germany.”

The United States sent elements of the American Expeditionary Force under Major General John J. Pershing to France in June 1917.

As one Army historian put it, “The choice of Pershing proved to be an excellent one; he was professionally competent, a natural leader, a thorough organizer, and a strict disciplinarian. During his career in the Army he had carried out every mission given him with imagination and vigor.”

General Pershing advised the War Department to prepare to send 1, 000,000 trained men to Europe within a year and to lay plans for raising a total of 4,000,000, even though the strength of the Army at the time was about 200,000 men, 65,000 of whom were National Guardsmen in federal service.
“To increase the Army twentyfold and train it was a tremendous task, one that would require considerable time even under the most favorable conditions.”

The Selective Service Act of 1917

It was clear from the start that the volunteer system could not provide all the men needed and conscription was required even though conscription was not popular. Many Americans believed that “compulsory service was unbefitting a free people.”  

Newton D. Baker, the Secretary of War, hoped to overcome this opposition by placing the draft machinery in the hands of civilian boards and Congress passed the Selective Service Act on 19 May 1917, establishing a National Army and requiring all males between the ages of twenty-one and thirty to register for service, but the law also permitted volunteering for the Regular Army, National Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.

“It specifically prohibited the twin evils of the Civil War period, the hiring of substitutes and the payment of bounties to induce enlistments.”

In 18 months 2, 810, 296 men were drafted and many of them were sent to Camp Dix.
Reorganization of the Army

General Pershing increased the strength of the infantry division to 28,000 men – and the division was reorganized into 2 infantry brigades of 2 regiments each, a field artillery brigade, a regiment of combat engineers, 3 machine gun battalions, and supporting service troops.

“These changes made the American infantry division roughly twice the size of the British, French, and German infantry divisions at the time. The enlarged division, though unwieldy and difficult to control, had tremendous striking power and staying power; the characteristics that experience proved were most needed to crash through enemy defenses on the Western Front.  The war Department organized 62 divisions during World War I. At the close of the war 43 of these had been sent to France and 19 others were in various stages of organization and training.”

Establishing a New System of Logistics.

“Probably the most difficult organizational problem that the Army had to deal with in World War I was the establishment of a smooth-functioning logistical system for both the Zone of Interior and the theatre of operations. To support it the resources of the nation were mobilized as never before.”

“Most of 1917 was devoted to retooling and expansion of industrial plants, to the construction of barracks and facilities to house troops, and to estimating requirements and letting contracts. New weapons were slow in rolling from the factories and many of the first drafted were trained with dummy or obsolete weapons.”

“Pershing Reorganizes the AEF. The size and complexity of the AEF convinced General Pershing that success in battle would be impossible without efficient staff work. This required a large number of trained officers using a common system under uniform methods. After studying British and French staffs, Pershing adopted an organization largely patterned after that of the French. For Pershing’s headquarters (GHQ) and army headquarters there were five sections: G-1, Administration; G-2, Intelligence; G-3 Operations; G-4 Coordination (Supply, Replacements); and G-5, Training.”

Camp Dix was given responsibility for much of the training, not only for World War I but served as a major point of exit and reentry for many soldiers, sailors and airmen and women over the next century.

Just as General Pershing was the right man at the right place at right time, Irwin & Leighton was the right company needed to build a military base from scratch.

It’s not quite clear exactly how they got the contract, from competitive bidding or they just knew someone, but either way, Irwin & Leighton was a fortunate choice.

Although a young company established eight years earlier, it had a solid reputation and a solid leadership corps, beginning with the owners Alexander Dickson Irwin, Jr. and Archibald Ogilvie Leighton, both better known as “A.D.” and “A.O.”

A.O. Leighton was born in Ballycarry, near Belfast in North Ireland, the son of a solicitor (lawyer) born in Scotland. Leighton was a contactor involved in the construction of the Sligo Post Office in Yeat's country Ireland, when news of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake inspired him to come to America to help rebuild the city. Leighton got as far as Philadelphia where he found work constructing the Germantown Junction train station.

There he met A.D. Irwin, the son of the owner of a major mill in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and together they formed Irwin & Leighton in 1909, drawing straws to see whose name would go first on the company logo. Their first offices were at 126 North 12th Street in center city.
They successfully completed a number of major construction jobs before 1917 but getting the $13 Million dollar government contract for the “Cantonment” - temporary lodging to house troops at Camp Dix.

Situated in the Pine Barons of Central New Jersey, the location was selected because of its unique situation between Philadelphia and New York, and remoteness from the population centers.

As they best utilized their talents, Irwin was the chief administrator in the office and handled the contracts and paperwork while Leighton went out in to the field and directed the construction operations. Some seventeen secretaries accompanied Leighton to then sleepy Wrightstown to set up a makeshift office to process the hundreds of workers who applied for the jobs - carpenters, plumbers, electricians, truck drivers and livery stable hands, as horses are to do much of the heavy work.

Many of the professional tradesmen arrived daily by train or car, dressed in suits and ties and changed into their work clothes to get down and dirty, then changed back into their suits and ties before returning home for dinner with their families.

Once they got into a good routine they are building a new barracks a day, and were under pressure to complete the job on time and on budget, which they did.

Having successfully completed Camp Dix in time for the thousands of doughboys to arrive for basic training, Irwin & Leighton got other government contracts to build military bases in Gettysburg, ten other states and Canada. Their expertise eventually led to the construction of dozens of major buildings that changed the skyline of Philadelphia and other cities.

In 1956 Irwin and Leighton sold the company to their employees who continued following their mission statement, and the company’s success. In 2009 the company commissioned a history that chronicles some of the work they did at Camp Dix.

Irwin & Leighton Inc. Construction company 1030 Continental Drive # 1, King of Prussia, PA
Irwin & Leighton’s celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2009. As part of our celebration, we published a special commemorative book entitled Our First 100 Years. The book highlights a selection of the many pioneering projects Irwin & Leighton is proud to have partnered in since its founding in 1909. Links to PDFs of the various chapters of the book are below. If you would like a copy of Our First 100 Years, please contact us.

Cantonment at Camp Dix

The United States Army Cantonment at Camp Dix

The Camp Dix project, although one of Irwin & Leighton’s earliest, stands event today as one of its most meaningful because of its significance and importance of the project to the World War I effort, and the speed in which it was built.

Irwin & Leighton was chosen to build the Cantonment at Camp Dix when the site’s installment began in 1917. The initial project was required to be completed under a very aggressive time schedule to meet the impending demands of World War I. To do this, Irwin & Leighton directly employed and/or coordinated the efforts of hundreds of workers who, in accordance with the custom of the day, arrived at work in shirt and tie, changed into work clothes and changed again to go home. Irwin and Leighton established an onsite Employment Office where seventeen clerks screened applicants who arrived by train and motor car. A fleet of autos was required to make the weekly commutes to the Philadelphia National Bank for the workers’ payroll.

The project started in July 1917, in farm fields. The scope involved ten sections of multiple barracks and support buildings as well as extensive infrastructure work. In less than sixty days, the entire project was substantially complete. In that time, Irwin & Leighton used forty million board feet of lumber, which was brought to the site by rail and erected in production fashion.

When the company hit stride, it was completing one barrack per day. Irwin & Leighton’s onsite superintendent was E. M. Campbell. The company further organized the project with “Heads of Departments” for survey, concrete, carpentry, sheet metal, plumbing, electrical, road construction, water and sewers, a pumping station, etc.

The 3,000 acre complex is located inside the Pineland National Reserve in Central New Jersey, and was named for Major General John Adams Dix, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
Used as a staging ground and training area for units during World War I, it was made a permanent Army post in 1939 and was renamed Fort Dix

Lakehurst, New Jersey – Bureau of Yards and Docks

In 1921, the Navy established Lakehurst Naval Air Station to serve as its headquarters for lighter-than-air flight after the pioneering use of zeppelins by the German forces in World War I. In order to house large helium-filled dirigibles, the Navy hired Irwin & Leighton to build Lakehurst’s Hanger No. 1, a massive structure measuring 961 feet long, 350 feet wide and 200 feet high. The great span and clear height were achieved through state-of-the-art design. Inside it, naval engineers assembled the first American-built airship, the Shenandoah. Lakehurst was also the location of the now-infamous Hindenburg disaster. The crash of the Hindenburg dirigible on May 6, 1937 over Lakehurst was the 20th century’s first transportation disaster widely captured by newsreel, audio recordings and still photos.

Camp Dix - JBMDL Chronology of the first 100 Years 

1798 – John Adams Dix born in Boscawen, New Hampshire
1812 – Dix serves in War of 1812
1861 – Dix named chairman of the Union Defense Committee in New York and made Major General in US Army.
1872 – Dix elected Governor of New York
21 April 1879 – Dix dies in New York City
1909 – A.D. Irwin and A.O. Leighton form Philadelphia construction company
6 April 1917 – US enters World War I – Congress authorizes the construction of 16 Army Camps to be built
19 May 1917 Selective Service Act
June 1917 – Irwin & Leighton given $13 million contract to convert New Jersey corn fields into army mobilization and training camp.
June 1917 – First American troops arrive in France
28 June 1914 – Construction begins on 1,655 buildings.
16 July, 1917
1917 – Harker family house sold to government and converted to the residence of the base commander.
September 1917 – First 17,000 troops arrive at Camp Dix. Eventually 35,000 troops in training, filling all barracks and tents used to house the rest, including 87th and 34th Infantry Divisions, 349th and 350th Field Artillery Battalions of the 92nd Division, and 15th Infantry of New York (369th). 311th Ambulance Company. 153rd Depot Brigade. British, French and Scottish solders at Camp Dix to advise US soldiers on the role of tanks and trench warfare.
October 1917 – Camp Dix Fire Company organized by soldiers, and the library opens with volunteers from the American Library Association. Howard L. Hughes, Harold F. Brigham librarians.
22 October 1917 – Camp Dix base hospital opens with 61 buildings with 1,000 bed capacity, located east of the Wrightstown Circle.
May 1918 – 78th Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Chase Kennedy leaves Dix and sails to Europe.
May 1918 – YMCA, Red Cross and Knights of Columbus begin providing programs and services to entertain the soldiers.
September - October 1918 – 7,970 cases of influenza and pneumonia reported, 774 deaths.
11 November 1918 – War ends.
3 December - Camp Dix demobilization center opens that processes over 300,000 soldiers.
8 March 1919 – Camp Dix becomes Fort Dix – named permanent Army post.
1 August 1920 – Thomas Buchanan McGuire, Jr. born in Ridgewood, N.J.
10-11 1920 – 1st Infantry Division observes first anniversary of end of WWI at ceremony presided over by Gen. John J. Pershing.
1920 – Camp Dix used as a training center for Army Reserves, National Guard and the Citizens Training Camp.
1921 – Navy establishes Lakehurst Naval Air Station
1921 - Animal Transportation School operating.
1930 – Federal Bureau of Prisons establishes prison on site.
1930s – Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) offers signal, infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineering training. After 4, 30 day courses qualify for commission in Army Reserve.
31 March 1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs bill creating CCC that continued until 1942 – Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted trees, controlled soil erosion, constructed roads, dams, bridges and fire towers, operates reception, training and discharge center with two forestry companies, a physical conditioning company and cook and baker’s school. The CCC built the first airplane runway at Camp Dix.
1936 – Telephone switchboard installed.
6 May 1937 – Hindenburg dirigible disaster at Lakehurst
1938 – Works Progress Administration and Public Works Administration funds construction of new buildings – Building 5416 – housed field grade officers.
8 March 1939 – Camp Dix named a permanent installation and renamed Fort Dix
1940 – Federal government purchases 17,000 additional acres of adjacent land and constructs new runways.
8 September 1940 – President Roosevelt declares limited national emergency and approved the first peacetime draft.
16 September 1940 – Peacetime draft inductees begin arriving at Fort Dix reception, training and deployment center. 44th Infantry Division assigned to Fort Dix for training. Ten other divisions trained at Fort Dix before being deployed overseas.
1941 – Pointville cemetery and town acquired by government for base expansion.
1941 – McGuire leaves Georgia Tech to join US Army Air Corps, Randolph Field
May 1942 – Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps established
April 1943 – Dodgers and Giants play a baseball game at Fort Dix baseball field.
July 1943 – Auxiliary Corps renamed Women’s Army Corps (WACS), working as administrative clerks, truck drivers, photographers and mechanics.
18-19 August 1943 – McGuire with 431st Fighter Squadron Wewak, New Guinea, shoots down five Japanese Ki-43 and Ki-61 fighters, eventually scoring 38 aerial victories, second only to Maj. Richard I. Bong, US AF all time ace (40)
25-26 December 1943 – McGuire downs seven Japanese fighter aircraft over Luzon, Philippines, and earns Medal of Honor for action on these days.
7 Jan 1945 – McGuire killed when his P-38 crashes over Fabrica aerodrome, Negros Island.
1945 – At war’s end Fort Dix becomes demobilization center processing 1.2 million soldiers back to civilian life.
1947 – United States Air Force established and air base transferred to Air Force
15 July 1947 – Fort Dix becomes a Basic Training Center and home of 9th Infantry Division.
1949 – McGuire’s remains recovered and returned to the United States
17 September 1949 – USAF base at Fort Dix renamed McGuire Air Force Base
17 May 1950 – McGuire buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery
25 June 1950 – Korean War begins, basic training reduced from 14 to 8 weeks.
1954 – 9th Infantry Division assigned to Europe and 69th Infantry Division moves in
1956 – Chubby Checker entertains the troops
16 March 1956 – 69th deactivated and Fort Dix renamed U.S. Army Training Center, Infantry
20 March 1959 – The Ultimate Weapon statute unveiled – designed and constructed at Fort Dix by soldiers Steven Goodman and Stuart Scheer.
1960 – BOMARC missile catches fire and two nuclear warheads melt in Broken Arrow event
3 September 1964 – Fort Dix chapel dedicated
1973 – New brick reception center opened.
1978 – First female recruits enter basic training.
1982 – 10 Stained glass windows installed in the Fort Dix chapel honoring WW I soldiers.
20 May 1982 – Last train to Fort Dix ends rail service that began in 1917.
1985 – Fort Dix Headquarters renamed Sharp Hall in honor of Gen. Richard Sharp
1987 – USAF Security Police Air Base Ground Defense School moved from Camp Bullis Texas
1988 – Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommends ending basic and advanced individual training at Fort Dix.
17 August 1990 – New The Ultimate Weapons statute constructed of bronze replaces original
1990 – Around the clock operations begin mobilizing and deploying troops for Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
1991 – Kuwaiti civilians trained in basic military skills
1991 – Active Army training mission ends.
1992 – Fort Dix begins mobilizing, deploying and demobilizing soldiers and providing training areas for Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers
1992 – Reception center that opened in 1973 transferred to Air Force as Air Mobility Warfare Center.
1992 – Department of Defense Police replace military police
1992 – US Department of Justice – Bureau of Prisons opens a federal prison
1993 – Somalia
1995 – Bosnia
1995 – Telephone switchboard, installed in 1936 replaced with fiber optic system.
1999 – Albanian, Kosovo refugees resettled.
August 2000 – Range 65 tank training area opens. Bryant Range named after Larry Bryant
2005 – Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst – JBMDL Established
2007 – A memorial to McGuire placed at his fatal crash site on Negros Island by former fighter pilot David Mason
2010 – Census 7,716 people living in 784 households with 590 families residing in CDP
2016 – Cassidy and Associates issue report on the future of the base and the state of NJ grant them another contract to continue their work.
July - 2016 – 100th Anniversary of Camp Dix-JBMDL

Monday, September 26, 2016

MLK in Camden - The Story Thus Far

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753 Walnut Street Camden N.J. 
Residence of Martin Luther King, Jr.  1950-1952 

MLK in Camden - The Story Thus Far 

William E. Kelly, Jr.

CAMDEN, N. J.  Birmingham, Memphis and Selma are well-known places in the history of civil rights in America, but few have ever heard of Maple Shade or Camden, and put them in the same category, until now, as the story is still unfolding.

In June 1950, when young seminary student Michael King signed his name to an official complaint, - the first such civil rights legal action he would take, he listed his legal residence as 753 Walnut Street, Camden, N.J., a few miles away.

Today, more than sixty-five years later, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Camden residence will be saved from demolition, restored to its 1950era ambiance, and serve as a civil rights museum, community center and tourist attraction in one of the city's most blighted neighborhoods. How this all came about is a story unto itself.

As is often the case it began a few years ago when local South Jersey car salesman and amateur historian Patrick Duff went looking for something else – attracted to Maple Shade as a town that called Duff’s attention because of its overzealous fear of the Ebola virus. While doing a basic background check on the town that truly is shaded by streets lined with trees, he came across an article “The Bar that Started a Crusade,” that told the story of how Martin Luther King, Jr. had been unceremoniously tossed out of a neighborhood bar and made a big stink of it in court, thus, at first glance, tarnishing the town’s image.

Although the roadside cafe bar called Mary's Place, and later known as the Morristown Pub was purchased by the N.J. Department of Transportation and torn down a few years before Duff began his crusade, he went to the Maple Shade city council. At first they were cool to Duff’s proposal to make the clover leaf location of Mary's Place a public park, place an historic marker on the spot and highlight its significance. But he also convinced a Morristown architecture firm to design the park pro-bono, and found a sympathetic ear in the Maple Shade city manager.

While at city hall early one MLK holiday Duff asked for and got a copy of the original June 1950 complaint, signed by King and three companions - fellow Crozer student Walter McCall, social worker Doris Wilson and Pearl Smith, a Philadelphia policewomen.

What jumped out at Duff was the address King gave as his residence - 753 Walnut Street, Camden, the same address as McCall.

When Duff tracked down the owner of the now boarded up row house, Jeanette Kill Hunt, and asked her if she had any association with Martin Luther King, she replied, "Well he used to live in my house."

She recalled King living there when she was a young girl, saying King and McCall rented a back room from her father, a relative of McCall. "In those days, anyone was welcome in our house,” she said. “It had what we called a swinging door. My cousin Walter (McCall) was King's friend, and the two of them lived in the back room upstairs on and off for two years while they were in school."

Duff and an Inquirer reporter went to the 753 Walnut Street address and found a boarded up row house covered with graffiti and drug gang symbols, its side and back yard littered with fast food wrappers and used needles, surrounded by boulder strewn boulders, bricks and broken glass. The house, abandoned for 20 years, was a crack house, its only saving grace was that it was attached as a duplex to a house where someone lived.

Once Duff discovered the building's historic significance he had a hard time convincing state preservation officers, city historians and even longtime neighbors that Martin Luther King, Jr. actually lived there and the building was worth saving. The state wanted documentation, the city historians were incredulous, and the neighbors said they just didn't remember King walking their streets. Shortly after Duff began to seek the historical designation that would preserve it the city ordered the building razed as part of its efforts to counter blighted and abandoned buildings.

Then Duff got the attention of Camden mayor Dana Redd and powerful political boss Rep. Donald Norcross, both of whom wrote letters to the state department requesting the historical designation.  Norcross then got his fellow Congressman Rep. John Lewis (D. Ga.), a friend and King colleague, to support the preservation effort, and all three recently spoke at a September 19  press conference in front of the house calling for its preservation.

"This place of historic real estate must be saved for generations unborn," said Lewis, who was in the area to receive the Liberty Medal at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a prestigious award that has also been given to the Dali Lama.

Lewis said that it was important to save the house as an historic site because, "Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't just help change America; he helped change the world."

With these latest developments, biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and histories of the civil rights movement in America will have to be rewritten, as new details emerge of MLK's time in Camden clearly indicate that it was a crossroads, a turning point in his life, and helped instigate the civil rights movement in America.

The two years King spent here while attending Crozer Theological Seminary go largely unrecognized in his biographies, but new evidence is continually being discovered that something very special happened here, an event that radicalized King, sparked a fire in his soul, and convinced him to dedicate his ministry to civil rights.

While King's studies at Crozier, in Chester, Pa., are documented, his residency in Camden has previously escaped general recognition until recently, as Patrick Duff has discovered the story behind the house, one piece at a time. Researching the issue further Duff found other news articles that indicates that the 1950 complaint was the first time King had taken such legal action, and the event may have played a more significant role in King's life than previously believed, and his hunch is being born out.

In Camden the owner of the house agreed to allow it to be preserved as a museum, and Duff obtained strong local allies in Father Michael Doyle, whose parish includes the house, and Rutgers Camden Law School, whose attorneys agreed to do the legal end and paperwork pro bono. Such a museum and center devoted to King and civil rights, they all agreed, could lead to the redevelopment of the whole neighborhood.

After the state asked for more documentation and the city ordered the house torn down, Duff remained undeterred, went back to the archives and discovered the Philadelphia Tribune, the city's venerable black newspaper, had covered the Maple Shade incident and provided the key elements that could give it historical designation and certify the time here as a life changing crossroads for King and some of the others involved.


In June 1950 Crozier seminary student Michael King had yet to become Martin Luther, Jr. King and was known to friends as Mike or more formally as Michael King. At the time King and fellow Crozier student Walter McCalll were on summer break from Crozer and working as interns for Haverford professor Ira Reid, the first tenured black faculty member at the Philadelphia college. King and McCall knew the Ivy League sociologist from the Morehouse academy in George. At the time Reid was conducting seminars on oral history techniques, after which he would send his students out into the field to interview old Baptist ministers in the south. Today there is a student center at Haverford named after Reid.

When he graduated early and with honors from Morehouse and was accepted into Crozer, a predominately white and well respected school, King’s father gave him a 1948 black Cadillac as a reward. When King first arrived at Crozer, he stayed in a dorm, where he once berated another black student for drinking beer, as it reflected on all of the black students. But by his second year, when McCall showed up from Georgia, King began to occasionally drink beer and shoot pool, and he moved out of the dorm to live with McCall and his cousins in the back second floor bedroom of the Walnut street row house in Camden. At that time Walnut Street in Camden resembled the tree lined streets of Maple Shade today.

It was a Sunday afternoon when King, McCall and their dates Smith and Wilson, went for a drive, destination unknown, but late in the day they pulled off the highway that is now Route 73 and stopped at the roadside cafe known as Mary's Place.

While the identity of Mary has yet to be determined, the cafe and liquor license were then being operated by Ernest Nickles, a big, imposing German immigrant.

King and his companions noticed a few people at the bar, including three college students and possibly a black guy, and sat down at a table.

After being ignored for awhile, King got up and approached the bar, asking for service.

Nickles refused to serve them and when it appeared that King and company were not leaving until they were served, Nickles went into the back room and emerged with a gun, saying, "I'd kill for less than this.” He then opened the door and fired the gun in the air, some say more than once.

That was enough to get King and his companions to leave, but they went to the police station where they filed charges against Nickles.

The police went to the bar, took the weapon from Nickles, apparently got statements from the customers, including three college students at the bar, and arrested Nickles on two charges.


At first King was very upset about the whole incident, and was somewhat embarrassed by what happened, as he couldn’t tell his father or family that he was kicked out of a bar and had instigated some legal trouble that would end up in court and possibly the news.

Instead of calling home, King and McCall contacted the head of the Burlington County NAACP, who referred them to Robert Burke Johnson, a lawyer with the NAACP in Camden. Lloyd Borros, the pastor of Zion Baptist church in Camden also put them in contact with Dr. Ulysses Wiggins, the head of the local branches of the NAACP. Like King, Dr. Wiggins was originally from Georgia, and was a respected black professional who offered them legal assistance. The NAACP attorney, Robert Burke Johnson, an assistant city prosecutor, represented King and the other complainants at the preliminary hearing in Maple Shade Municipal Court before Judge Percy Charlton.

The first Philadelphia Tribune article uncovered by Duff appears to have been based only on statements King and McCall gave Dr. Wiggins, but according to the second Tribune account, Nickles' attorney W. Thomas McCann, of Morristown, explained to the court that Nickles thought King and company wanted take-out liquor, which he was unable to sell at that hour on Sunday by law. But as the Tribune article puts it, he was unable to explain Nickles shooting the gun in the air, although Nickles did say in a statement that was how he called his dog.

The judge held Nickles on $500 bail.

Nickles had a good attorney in McCann, who was respected in the county court, and the Maple Shade case is mentioned in McCann's obituary among his other accomplishments.

With McCann defending Nickles and Wiggins, Johnson and the NAACP behind King and company, a dramatic civil rights court case was shaping up that could have rivaled the Scopes trial and make them all famous. But then, after the preliminary hearing, the case was dismissed. Apparently, the parents of the three college student who were to be witnesses at the trial, put pressure on their kids and the students declined to testify. So one charge was dismissed and Nickles apparently pleaded guilty and paid a small fine for the second charge.

Other than a few newspaper articles, years apart, that mention the Maple Shade incident, and a passing reference to it in one of King's biographies, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s short but significant time in Camden went generally unnoticed. That King lived in Camden even went under the radar of longtime residents and local historians, one of whom emphatically declared that, "Martin Luther King never set foot in Camden."

Yet, the story is now well documented, and aspects of it are still emerging as we learn more about it.

Nickle's attorney McCann said that he heatd King testify before Congress on the radio, and when a Senator asked King what sparked his interest in civil rights, he recalled the Maple Shade incident, but in those pre-ESPN days, the details are elusive, as Duff continues to collect the historical documentation necessary to get state recognition and monetary grants.

The support of the politicians led to the cleanup of Walnut Street and the clearing of the adjacent lot. "It looks like a different street," said Duff, looking a bit bewildered at the sudden change in the street scape as well as his fortune and the destiny of the house.

While Maple Shade erects an historic marker and considers an MLK park, Camden begins to look for funds to restore the house and revive the neighborhood.

After giving a speech in front of the house on Walnut Street in which he recounted his first meeting and association with King, Lewis said, "I would love to come back here someday to visit again, and see a marker, and this place, this building restored, and it will be a day of jubilation. Don't give up, don't get lost in a sea of despair. Keep the faith."

And no one has kept that faith stronger than Patrick Duff. As Norcross said of him, one person can make a difference, and it doesn’t take education, power or money, like Duff, you just have to be determined, and be right.

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 753 Walnut Street Camden N.J. before they cleaned the lot and the street

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Rep. John Lewis (D. Ga.) and Camden Mayor Dana Redd in front of 753 Walnut Street, 
September 19, 2016 Press Conference