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Washington-Born Portland Man Remembers 1963 March

Many who attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom made a huge effort to get there.  Chartered busses drove for hours.  Some hitchhiked.  Others walked the whole way.

For George E. Hocker, Jr., the 1963 march was a local affair.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone/OPB

Hocker was a Washington, D.C. native, growing up in a segregated city.  Hocker, 74, now lives in Portland, and works in the office of city commissioner Nick Fish.

Hocker knew there was going to be some big gathering in his hometown on August 28, 1963.  But he had no idea how big.

“I had never imagined what it would look like to see Constitution Avenue completely covered,” he says.

Hocker was 24 at the time, working for the State Department.  He was worried his employment with the Federal government might require he stay away.  But, he says, “the need I felt to participate in this historical event overshadowed that.”

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone/OPB

The high point of the March for Hocker - and the event that etched it into American history - was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.  Hocker was only about 100 yards from King, who commanded the estimated crowd of 250,000 with the power of his oratory.

“You could’ve heard a pin drop out there, almost,” Hocker says.  “It was that quiet.”

Hocker can draw a line between that moment and his decision to devote himself to a life of public service.

“This was a defining moment for me, because I walked away from there feeling I’m not alone,” he says.

“There are other people here who want to see a better life.”

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