Meet Martin Luther King Jr.'s White Driver

Meet Martin Luther King Jr.'s White Driver

Here's a story you probably didn't know about on this MLK day.  NPR's StoryCorp uncovered the story of a white male who came to Atlanta and ended up being the King's driver. In the mid-1960s, Tom Houck left high school to join the civil rights movement and decided to volunteer for King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"I was standing outside waiting for somebody to come pick me up," Houck told StoryCorp, remembering the day he arrived in Atlanta. "All of a sudden, Dr. King drove down the street. He said, 'Tom, you're here.' "

Houck remembers the reverend and his wife, Coretta Scott King, promptly invited him back to their house for lunch. Houck accepted, ate with the family and even went out to the front yard for a game of football with their children.

Then, Houck says, Coretta Scott King interrupted the game to ask him a question.

"Do you have your driver's license?" she asked — and Houck said yes. And so she had another question: "Would you mind taking the kids to school tomorrow morning?"

"Fine," Houck said.

And just like that, Houck began his stint as the Kings' family driver. For nine months, Houck drove Martin Luther King Jr. around Atlanta, though King liked to drive himself often, too.

"But he was a terrible driver," Houck says. "And he turned WAOK radio in Atlanta on full blast."

Houck reveals that King was a chain smoker and often tried to hide it from Coretta Scott King. "So when we would come back to the house, first thing Coretta would do, she would check Dr. King's pockets. So he started giving me his cigarettes."

Houck believed in Martin Luther King, Jr. and his message. He says that King was his hero.

"He was a decent, kind human being to me and treated me not as an 18- or 19-year-old, but as a man. And it was a phenomenal experience for me because, at this point, Dr. King had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and he would talk to me about the movement."

 

 

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