When Charles Houston heard Martin Luther King Jr. give his "I have a dream" speech on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he knew civil rights changes were on the horizon. But he never expected to see an African-American president in his lifetime.
Houston, now age 90 and an associate preacher at Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island, preached about civil rights from his pulpit in Tuckahoe, N.Y., and twice marched on Washington.
"I remember separate restrooms and drinking fountains. I lived through that," Houston said. "We kept moving on, and now we're about to enter a true democracy in the United States. It's a great day to be alive."
Houston was one of hundreds who took part in the marches and celebrations on Hilton Head Island and Bluffton on Monday to honor King's legacy. During the celebrations, marchers cheered and held signs likening King to President-elect Barack Obama.
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"Dr. King dreamed it. Barack Obama achieved it," one sign said.
Tony Grant, a Hilton Head resident, brought his 7-year-old daughter, Kala, to the event because of its historic implications.
"Obama is part of King's dream," he said. "Everything King stood for is starting to come true, and for people like me who were born into the struggle, it's just amazing to see the changes happen in front of you."
About 300 showed up at Hilton Head Island High School for the ceremony following the march. Early arrivals to the event watched the 1963 "Dream" speech in the school's auditorium. About 50 stayed for Bluffton's post-march celebration at the Bluffton Town Center, which included hymns and Scripture readings.
Joe Catanzaro of Hilton Head supported Obama during the election. Catanzaro, who is white, said he never thought of Obama as a black candidate.
"He was just the best person for the job," he said. "I think that is part of King's dream, because I think everyone saw Obama as just the best person for the job, not a black or white candidate."
Marshal Brown of Bluffton said he was excited to see so many white people at the island event.
"Right here, people are trying to make the world a better place," he said. "It's so amazing to see so many people here wanting a better world like King dreamed."