Former King aide to speak during MLK Commemoration Week

January 11, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tom Houck, a former personal assistant and driver of Martin Luther King Jr., will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library, as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week.

The event is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the MLK Commemoration Committee, the Presidential Leadership Academy, the Schreyer Honors College, Hillel, the Paterno Family Professorship, and University Libraries.

Houck, a civil rights advocate since he was in high school, drove to Atlanta to volunteer for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1966. After a meal at the family’s home, King’s wife asked Houck if he could drive their children to school the next day, and he was a personal aide to King until his death in 1968.

Today, he gives three-hour bus tours of historic civil rights sites in Atlanta. It was during one of these tours this past summer that Houck met a number of students from Penn State’s Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA).

“So often you get people on your tour that don’t know much about the subject matter,” Houck said. “These students were very much up on the subject matter and the discussion and wanted to know more about King and the civil rights movement.”

Houck plans to touch on the commemoration’s theme of “When Silence Becomes Betrayal” during his first visit to Penn State.

“As Martin Luther King said, silence is certainly no virtue,” he said. “What we have to look at is the ability for us to continue the movement, and we have that opportunity thanks to the work he put in. … I’m delighted by the fact that Penn State is taking on a different kind of situation in dealing with civil rights today. King’s movement is really today’s movement, which is income inequality and affordable housing.”

Houck has kept in touch with a few of the PLA students he met in Atlanta. His hope for this event is to continue to get across to students of all backgrounds the importance of what King helped start more than a half century ago.

“So many kids today who are 18-25 have never really studied civil rights history or know anything about the movement,” Houck said. “They know ‘I have a dream,’ but Dr. King was far more than that.”

  • MLK Commemoration Week poster
    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 13, 2017