ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Lennette Pembleton, now 88 years old, met Martin Luther King Jr. in June of 1946 and remembers it well.
The meeting took on Bridge Street in St. Augustine at her husband Irvin's restaurant. The restaurant stood next to Trinity Methodist Church, but is long gone.
An Associated Press photo shows Pembleton hugging Dr. King the day they met. She told me she doesn't remember ever seeing the photo until just this past week.
"I think it is great, I am glad I have it," Pembleton said. "I am going to frame it."
She met Dr. King that morning on her way to work in downtown St. Augustine, where she worked for a dress store for 38 years. The life long resident of St. Augustine says it was a privilege to meet Dr. King.
"He was a very nice person , always with a smile. He didn't seem like he was against talking to people, he was a very nice gentlemen," Pembleton said. "You could talk to him like I am talking to you."
Pembleton recalls her childhood fondly, where for 12 years she walked by a white school to attend Excelsius school, grades one to 12, graduating in 1943. But she says she grew up in a mixed neighborhood and did not experience racial hatred.
"I never knew there was that much hatred until he came, because I was never involved in it. We played together, we ate, we went to movies. I mean I just didn't know."
She heard Dr. King speak on two occasions at St. Mary's Missionary Baptist Church on Washington Street during the height of the Civil rights movement and and was impressed.
"Just to hear him talk you did not get the feeling he was a violent person, he was not only trying to do for blacks, he was trying to do for both colors, he was that type of person," she said. "This is a person who was committed to what he was doing, and there is not going to be any violence in it, not on his part. "
Pembleton said she remembers well his message of peace, no violence, and a good education for both races. She honors him on his birthday because of that message.
First Coast News