Of all the thousands of buses streaming in to Washington, there's a special one from Birmingham, Ala. It was organized by the foot soldiers who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham. Their business manager, Shirley Gavin Floyd, is taking about 40 elderly civil rights pioneers to see the historic inauguration of Barack Obama.
Gloria Lewis Randall, James Armstrong and others braved police commissioner Bull Connor's attack dogs and water cannons in 1963. Both went to jail. Randall was then only 15.
Now 61, Randall says, "It's history in the making again. It reminds me of being a part of something that's good — and I'm just so honored, and I'm privileged. It's what we marched for." Racism and segregation shaped Randall's childhood. Her father was beaten in front of her for taking her to a park to show her a duck.
At 85, Armstrong is still a practicing barber. He has a pacemaker now, but he's making the trip because "I almost feel my work is done. I just want to be there. I can tell the story if I was there."
The Rev. Jonathan McPherson bought a ticket to go, but health reasons are keeping him in Birmingham for the inauguration. McPherson went to jail in 1963 with King. He sent his fellow marchers off with a blessing:
"We pray that almighty God will give them his traveling mercy and grace, and that he will keep the driver alert and awake, and that he would be in the automobiles, the tires, and also the opposing drivers that they would have a safe journey there, just like we pray for Mr. Barack Obama and his family"
The foot soldiers leave Monday night after a morning Martin Luther King celebration. They hope to make it into Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning. They don't have tickets to anything, but they do have faith — and grit.