I will never forget the stories they used to tell us as kids about that magical day, in their words, and the legacy that it helped create for Dr. Martin Luther King. —Thurl Bailey
SALT LAKE CITY — Carl and Retha Bailey needed a babysitter to watch their children.
No, the Baileys weren’t going out for a drink or to dance, they were going to witness one of the world’s most prominent civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver his most iconic speech.
On Aug. 28, 1963, Carl and Retha stood among a crowd of nearly 250,000 folks in Washington, D.C., near the Washington Monument to hear King’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech.
Just a 2-year-old at the time, Utah Jazz great Thurl Bailey was one of the children being babysat in a suburb of D.C. as his parents watched history.
Fifty-four years later, the retired Jazz player-turned-analyst still remembers that day, although his parents are deceased.
“I have pictures of my parents getting a babysitter for me and my other two siblings,” Bailey said. “They came home that evening and just sat us down and talked to us about the speech and the legacy and what they thought that it would mean for us as black people.”
Bailey took a break from working to attend Monday afternoon’s 34th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Luncheon at Little America Hotel. He used the time to reflect on the legendary civil rights leader’s legacy.
“I will never forget the stories they used to tell us as kids about that magical day, in their words, and the legacy that it helped create for Dr. Martin Luther King,” Bailey said. “Hopefully we can continue to live that throughout our lives.”
Bailey, 56, is now a father of six children. He continues to reside in the Salt Lake City area as a practicing Mormon, while being active and making an impact with his wife, Sindi.
“It’s a great legacy and story for me to carry on with my kids,” Bailey said. “Hopefully, that legacy will never die.”
Attending the yearly luncheon has become a ritual for Bailey on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He also presented the Utah Jazz Scholarship of $3,000 to Kamaria Smith, a 17-year-old senior at Salt Lake Center for Science Education, which was traditionally presented annually by the late Jazz owner Larry H. Miller.
“His dream is that we can all live together in equality. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to the point where we can all understand what that means.
“Sometimes we take a step back, then take a couple steps forward, but the one thing I do know is in order for that to be a reality, all of us — every creed, every color, every religion — has to believe in it, has to live it every day, so that’s what Dr. King’s legacy means.”