It was in the living room of Dr. W. G. Anderson in Albany, Georgia. Stacked in a corner was a golf bag. Standing by it, musing, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, let his hand caress the brass head of the putter. He had come here at the bidding of Anderson, the head of the Albany Movement for civil rights. He would make a speech, several in fact, inspiring Albany’s 27,000 Negroes to insist on rights long denied. And he would be jailed, several times. In fact, from his jail cell he asked Anderson to make an appearance in his place on Meet the Press. It was a long time ago, 1961 spilling into 1962.
As a reporter there to cover the Albany goings-on, this correspondent was struck by King’s fascination for a thing entirely different from the subject for which he was becoming world known.
Why, I wondered, would he linger over his host’s golf bag, patting the head of what is now an old-fashioned brass putter. He moved on before the chance to ask occurred, but I did ask his wife, Coretta, who had come to Albany with him.
“He loved golf,” she said, adding that he had at one time been a very good player, not just average but very good. But now, she reflected, there was no time. His calling, the movement, had erased the possibility of spending four hours on a golf course, let alone on one of the few available in those times to a man of color. “But,” she assured me. “He really was very good, once.”
The rest of the story is, as they write, history. King would make a moving speech before the Lincoln Memorial. He would speak of the promised land later in Memphis. Reams of words would be printed about what he said and thought. And how viciously he was slain. And his birthday is now honored here and abroad.
But you have to wonder, as the image of a golf club caress lingers down the years, did he ever get a chance to play, ever again? Or, as is the likely case, did his dream for a people and a nation not allow him time, and foreclose a simple pleasure?