Greensboro men form friendship through March on Washington experiences

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- More than a decade separates both Luddy Hayden and Vaughn Olinger.

However, it was both time and history that helped bridge their friendship.

“I grew up in the state of Maryland so I knew early on what discrimination and racism...all of that looked like,” said Hayden.

Hayden grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and in the 1963, he was an 18-year-old student at the University of Pittsburgh.

He was presented with the opportunity at the time to go to the March on Washington with a bus load of fellow students.

“I was aware of the buildup. I was waiting to go,” Hayden said.

“I felt I had to. I would have gotten there one way or another anyway. By bus, by train, by hitchhike,” he said.

Olinger was an elementary school student living in northern Virginia around that time.

“I think I was kind of sheltered. Even though I lived close to D.C., I was kind of sheltered from all of that. I remember a certain tenseness, anxiety about the March on Washington,” he said.

“I was really too young to understand what was going on at the time and put it all in perspective of what that meant,” Olinger said.

In August of 1963, hundreds of thousands of people marched and eventually gathered in front of the Lincoln memorial as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“It was bright and sunny day, but otherwise it was miserable. I mean, you were very uncomfortable,” Hayden said.

“I remember seeing the pictures on TV,” said Olinger.

That day, Dr. King put a national spotlight on the inequalities African-Americans were facing at the time.

“Teams of people stretching back almost two miles. The rumble and the sound and the noise that went along with that and then all of sudden things going quiet when he approached the microphone,” Hayden said.

“It was that booming, resonating, commanding, emotional. It was, it was just a very special moment,” he said.

More than 40 years later, both that elementary school student and that passionate college student would meet here at the YMCA in downtown Greensboro.

Hayden recognized Olinger from his grandson's track meet.

“The first time I saw him in the locker room I said, ‘you're the guy with the crazy socks,’” Hayden laughed.

Their initial conversation sparked an ongoing locker room conversation.

“From there the topic would change and Luddy would talk about things that he did,” Olinger said.

Their conversations eventually led back to Hayden’s experience at the March on Washington.

“I went wow! Whoa! You were there,” Olinger said.

“You are their vicarious opportunity to be there. I think that was part of Vaughn’s reaction,” Hayden said. “So, we have a connection that has broaden a little bit.”

Two men from diverse backgrounds, brought together by history.

“I think that Dr. King was great enough to see the possibility of changing hearts. I think that still would be a part of his dream,” Hayden said.