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As one of only two Negroes attending Los Angeles Baptist College (now Master's College), Dolphus Weary was having the time of his life experiencing a new world of white faces and middle-class culture. Born and raised in rural Mississippi, Weary had assumed he would spend the rest of his life there—until a recruiting team offered him and a friend a chance to attend a Christian liberal arts college in southern California. Other Christian schools that Weary had been interested in refused admission to Negroes. But through the urging of a bold admissions director and an ambitious basketball coach, this ultraconservative institution agreed to make Weary and his friend the first blacks who attended in its 30-year history.

Weary earned above-average grades (knowing anything less would be unacceptable) and helped lead the school's basketball team to a 19-and-5 record. Things were good. The poverty and provincialism of Negro life in southern Mississippi were out of sight, out of mind. Weary was glad to have escaped it—that is, until the day's big news made its way across campus.

As Weary left the library on April 4, 1968, a white student approached him and said, "Did you hear? Martin Luther King got shot."

"I remember running to my room, flipping on the radio, and listening to the news report," he recalls. A rifle bullet had ripped into King's neck as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil-rights leader was rushed to a hospital in serious condition. "I was devastated."

As he sat on his bed holding back the tears, Weary could hear voices down the hall: white students talking about King's shooting. But Weary quickly realized that they were not just talking; they were laughing.

"I couldn't understand what I ...

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In the Magazine

March 2, 1998

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