ALICEVILLE, AL. (WCBI)-I’ve been to the Mountain Top. It’s a speech Clarence Bozeman loves reciting. One that his former mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave the night before his death.
“I truly believe he was a prophet from the Lord,” said Clarence Bozeman.
Clarence was a freshman at Alabama State University back in 1958 when his Dean told him the young pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was in need of a driver.
“The dean assigned me to go to the King’s house to see Dr. King so I would be hired, he met me at the door, interviewed me and we sat and talked and the same day he gave me the job!” said Bozeman.
He remembers Dr. King as a focused and humble man.
“He rode up front with me. Never sat in the back. He never wanted to give the impression of being chauffeured,” said Bozeman.
He also transported Coretta Scott King to different parts of Alabama to visit her family. On one trip, he remembers discussing a night that nearly took her life.
“I asked her to tell me about the time her house was bombed. She told me that she heard a thud and thump on the front porch. It was an unfamiliar sound, so she took Yolanda to the rear of the house. And the moment she closed the door, the entire wall she’d been sitting near, blew to smithereens and they weren’t hurt and as she told me this story, tears ran down her cheeks,” said Bozeman.
And he remembers the day he heard about Dr. King’s assassination.
“I was coming home from school. I was a teacher in Cleveland. I’m driving alone and suddenly we get this news break and it says, ‘Tonight Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis, TN. There was a pause and the announcer said, ‘MLK died at 6:35’ and the moment he said that, my heart sank, and I pulled over on the side of the street and I wept uncontrollably because my mentor had gone. I still feel the pangs of it today.” said Bozeman.
Clarence will always remember the two years he drove a man that touched the lives of millions, and one who’s impact continues today.
“I think his legacy led the groundwork for Barack Obama to be who he is. Dr. King sacrificed so much, the stress on him was tremendous but he stayed the course. Simply because he did not know the word fear,” said Bozeman.
Clarence Bozeman now lives in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also a civil rights advocate and lectures at several colleges and universities discussing the history of the civil rights movement.