As we approach the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Richard Press shares this memory about the time his father bequeathed to King a small gift.
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My father Paul Press met Martin Luther King, Jr. at a Reform Jewish Temple in New Haven. Dad was president of the temple and Robert E. Goldberg its rabbi.
Goldberg, a jocular and very left-wing Talmud scholar, was a close friend of playwright Arthur Miller and officiated his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. He was also arrested with Dr. King in 1961 during a peaceful civil rights demonstration in Albany, Georgia.
They shared the same jail cell, and while incarcerated Goldberg invited to speak at his New Haven temple.
On the day of his visit, my father, as president of the temple, picked up King at the railroad station. After the event, on the way back to the station, both men admitted they were starved. Dad suggested they head over to Yankee Doodle, the popular Eli hangout directly behind the J. Press store on York Street.
Wolfing down cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate milk shakes at the narrow sandwich counter, King suggested, “Mr. Press, how about taking a visiting preacher on a tour of J. Press?”
King admired the hundreds of ties strewn along the open counter, picking up reps, ancient madders and wool challis, asking their derivation and how each should be worn. Breaking the interrogation, Dad picked out a midnight blue emblematic tie with crests from one of the Yale colleges. Dad folded it into a long narrow tie bag emblazoned with the J. Press circular logo. “Dr. King,” he said, “here’s a souvenir of your cheeseburger stop at Yale.”
Several years later, the men met by chance at the San Juan airport in Puerto Rico. “Dr. King, you may not remember me…” my father began.
King immediately interrupted him. “Paul Press, Bob Goldberg’s friend from New Haven. Don’t worry, Mr. Press, I still wear the tie, but I threw out the bag.” — RICHARD PRESS