Photo: Yuan Gao ’19
Richard Boddie ’61, P’93 spoke at the Jan. 21 kick off to the University’s annual MLK Week celebration.
‘A Greater Vision’
Richard Boddie ’61, P’93 kicks off Bucknell’s annual MLK Week celebration
by Julia Shapiro ’19

When Martin Luther King Jr. visited Bucknell in April 1958, Richard Boddie ’61, P’93 was one of only three black students enrolled at the time.

Nearly 61 years later, Boddie kicked off the University’s annual MLK Week observance by recalling King’s visit and chapel address to 50 students and faculty gathered Jan. 21 at Elaine Langone Center.

“[King] was like a rock star,” Boddie recalls of the civil-rights icon’s chapel talk.

Boddie explains that, back in his day, students were required to attend chapel meetings in the Davis Gym, where King was a guest speaker. After King’s talk, Boddie approached King to shake his hand.

“We had a back and forth,” Boddie recalls. “He asked me my name, and I told him, ‘Boddie.’ Dr. King asked, ‘Which Boddie are you from?’ I told him I was Chucky’s kid, and that’s when he knew who I was.” (King was acquainted with Boddie’s father, a minister.) “I am sure no one else got that kind of reception,” Boddie says.

Boddie, who says he was the University’s first black track & field athlete, went on to earn his J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law. From there, he pursued a variety of professions: lawyer, banker and 1992 Libertarian candidate for president.

In his talk, Boddie drew parallels between his life and King’s: both were preachers’ sons, Boy Scouts and advocates of nonviolent activism. Boddie says King “was committed to nonviolence — not just the rhetoric, but the idea.” It was this “greater vision” that allowed King to build an enduring name and legacy.

King “was committed to nonviolence — not just the rhetoric, but the idea.”
Richard Boddie ’61, P’93

When an audience member asked Boddie how society has changed since King’s time, Boddie focused on the consequences of social media. He says social media encourages hateful speech because of its anonymous nature. Boddie instead urged the crowd to speak “out of love,” as King did.

Boddie’s talk was the first of 10 events marking Bucknell’s annual MLK Week, which brings scholars and activists to campus to reflect on King’s legacy and consider his philosophies in the context of contemporary struggles. This year’s theme, “Facing Change,” featured a charitable gift drive, as well as an array of discussions designed to empower participants to enact individual and community change.