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MLK Speaks in San Francisco

May 30, 1964 - Dr. Martin Luther King, the nation’s most articulate spokesman for racial integration, made an impassioned plea in San Francisco tonight for a Federal civil rights bill, President Johnson’s war on poverty, and California’s Rumford Fair Housing Law, and nonviolent action to accomplish all these goals.

The clergyman from Atlanta was given a standing ovation before his speech and was interrupted repeatedly by lengthy applause from the audience of 11,500 at the Cow Palace.

Relaxed, smiling, and dressed in a blue suit, the apostle of nonviolence told his audience: “Discrimination in employment is not limited to the South. It is all over the country and may even exist here in an institution such as the Bank of America. It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation. The law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me.”

His biggest round of applause came when he said passage of the civil rights bill would be “the greatest tribute America can pay to President John F. Kennedy.”

Dr. King was preceded to the speaker’s platform by a solemn processional of clergymen from all faiths and 24 young members of the integrated Boy Scout Troop 97 of Oakland.

Prior to his speech, Dr. King confided to reporters that he “had been in touch” yesterday with a special assistant to President Johnson about the explosive five days of racial violence in St. Augustine, Florida.

The clergyman said he had the promise of Lee White, the Presidential assistant, that the White House would look into the matter “immediately.”

Last week, extremists peppered the St. Augustine beach cottage rented by Dr. King with shotgun volleys.

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