Topic: "Thunder Road"
In the time before Interstate Highways, travel by motorcar was perilous enough. Gas stations were few and far between. Kemmons Wilson had just come up with the idea of "motels," and places to spend the night did not exist outside cities and good-sized towns. It was an ominous experience for Frodo and his family, but it was a dangerous one for black people.
Frodo knows the story is true, so listen dear reader, and do not be afraid.
The two ministers from Atlanta were on their way to Kentucky on business. There were no commercial establishments which would provide them rest on their two-day sojourn. They knew however, of a place in Tennessee, in a town called New Market, and it was called the Highlander Center. They knew that the people who maintained the Center were interested in preserving the culture and the heritage of the people who inhabited the Southern Highlands. They were different from their neighbors. Before there were such words, these people were "beatnicks," or "hippies." To many of their neighbors they were "Communists." The Highlander Center had suffered numerous bombings and acts of arson. The State of Tennessee had moved in Federal Court to demolish this gathering spot for "gentle people, with flowers in their hair."
The ministers pulled in to the Highlander Center seeking food and shelter. The fact that they were black had little impact on their hosts. After dinner, and before bed, the residents gathered around an open fire and sang spirituals. Frodo can close his eyes and hear the tune of "A Closer Walk With Thee," even now.
The next day the ministers headed off for their destination in the Bluegrass State. Before long, one turned to the other and he said, "Ya know Ralph, I just can't get that one song out of my mind."
Ralph David Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. had been introduced to the tune "We Shall Overcome" by a bunch of white boys.
There remains a small white Hobbit who hums that tune every time he passes Knoxville heading North on Interstate 40 before he gets to Dollywood. Tonight he will hum that tune for Coretta.