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AARP Bulletin

March on Washington — Then and Now

50 years ago, Americans rallied for civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a dream and six marchers return to the nation's capital to reflect

Gordon H. "Gunny" Gundrum, 75, Grafton, N.Y.

Then: U.S. Park Service Ranger

Now: Retired New York state trooper, beekeeper and farmer

Maybe his Marine Corps spit-and-polish got him selected to guard King on the podium, surmises Gordon H. Gundrum. In any case, "Gunny," the sole white person standing near King in many of the day's photographs, didn't speak publicly about the event until his love of history persuaded him to share his memories.

"I was, deep down inside, scared looking at thousands upon thousands of people," he says. "But it was a calm crowd with a cause that was stirring. When you looked at the crowd, you didn't see blacks or whites. You saw America."

Though always a believer that people should be treated equally, Gundrum insists he wasn't immersed in civil rights until that day. For him, hearing King's message "was like being introduced to a poem that really got to you." The experience shaped how he came to treat everyone, from hippie hitchhikers to black motorists.

"You always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt that they were good people. And you were there to protect their rights.

Next page: Rosemary McGill. »

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