News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 22, 2013

ISU department chairman looks back on 1968 King speech

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Steve Lamb remembers being “mesmerized” when he heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a speech on Jan. 19, 1968, at Kansas State University.

Lamb, now a department chairman in the Indiana State University Scott College of Business, was a Kansas State graduate student when King spoke there. King’s topic dealt with the “Future of Integration.”

“Those of us who attended this speech realized … that we would be witnessing history,” said Lamb, who gave a brief presentation at ISU as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

“His speaking presence was legendary,” Lamb said. “His delivery was awesome.”

More than 7,000 people attended “and fell in love with Dr. King and his message,” Lamb said. “He had an unbelievable passion and eloquence, a passion that was fired and inspired by injustice, by a need to bring about a national spirit built on morality.”

Lamb said the speech “helped shape my fabric, my belief system.”

After the speech, “I wanted so badly to shake his hand,” Lamb said. He went up to the elevated, circular platform that had a four-foot, wooded, enclosed rail around it. King had remained on the platform talking to campus leaders and dignitaries.

Lamb extended his hand over the rail “and someone began giving me a handshake. I needed to know that it was Dr. King. I tightly gripped the hand and pulled it over the rail. It was Dr. King’s hand.”

He also heard Robert Kennedy, who was running for president, speak at Kansas State just two months later, in March 1968.

King was assassinated that April, and Kennedy, just two months later, in June. “The nation was psychologically depressed,” Lamb recalled.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or