Blog: The Photo

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Burt Ross and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Occasionally, a coincidence can be spooky. A case in point is a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King and me, which was taken at a train station in Boston after I hosted Dr. King at a Harvard function back in the 1960s. Actually, the photo was of Dr. Martin Luther King, me, and a third person, but for purposes of vanity, I cropped out the third person.

Many years ago, when I was still living on the East Coast, I got a phone call: “Burt, this is Pete Weiner. I don’t know if you still remember me.” Of course I remembered Pete. He was the third person in the photo, and Pete had been the Vice President of the Harvard Radcliffe Young Democratic Club when I had been its president. Pete continued, “Burt, do you remember that photo of Dr. King, you and me?” I did not tell Pete I had cropped him out. “Burt, I live in Oakland, Calif., and my house burned down. In my living room I had that photo hanging on the wall. Do you still have that photo, and if so, can you send me a copy?”

I not only had a copy, but one still containing all three of us. I made a copy and the very next day I sent it to Pete via FedEx. I knew how much that photo must have meant to Pete, because it meant a great deal to me. This all brings me to the coincidence. That photo sat in my office in my home, and other than family photos, it was my most precious photo. I always told my bride that in case of a fire, first we would pack our family photos, and then we would take the photo of Dr. King. Well, the home burned down, and with it the photo of me and Dr. King. We were on the East Coast and didn’t have the opportunity to take that photo—or anything else, for that matter.

No, I did not call Pete for a return favor. By some quirk I had sent this photo to my kids, and to The Malibu Times. I expect when I move into a new home to have that photo right back in my new office. Some stories do have a happy ending.