Dr. Martin Luther King at SMU, 1966


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      On August 4th, 1965, Bert Moore, a then-SMU Student Senate Vice President sent a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking him to visit the campus and give a speech on the Civil Rights Movement. According to Moore’s letter, there were only two Black undergraduate students at SMU. In addition, Moore wrote that “Dallas could hardly be called progressive in her handling of civil rights.”[1] Bert Moore’s ultimate goal was to enable civil rights progression on SMU’s campus and even the Dallas area.


      Just seven months later; Bert Moore’s request was honored. On March 17, 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Southern Methodist University and spoke for an hour in the 2,700 seat McFarlin Auditorium.[2] Although closed to the public, over two thousand students, faculty, and staff attended the lecture, which was a standing-room only.[3] Dr. King discussed the historical events that led Black Americans to face oppression within America including the inhumanity of slavery, the US Supreme Court decisions of Dred Scott and Plessy versus Ferguson, and lynchings throughout the South to display slavery and later segration created racial injustices.[4] However, each of these topics helped the audience members at Southern Methodist University understand the importance of race relations within America and Dr. King’s hopes for the future of integration. In his opening, he stated,


“It is always a very rich and rewarding experience when I can take a brief break from the day-to-day demands of our struggle for freedom and human dignity and discuss the issues involved in that struggle with college and university students and concerned people of goodwill all over the country and all over the world.”[5]


      Dr. Martin Luther King mentioned how rewarding it is to take a brief break from the demanding struggle for freedom and human dignity to discuss the issues with college and university students.[6] His time at SMU left a huge impression on the campus. He mentioned to the audience to be involved participants and not silent onlookers.[7] His ideologies on the advancement of race relations still impacts our campus community today.


      Every year, the office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement hosts Dream Week, in which the SMU community has gathers for a week of several events to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King with SMU’s participation in the City of Dallas MLK Day Parade. Students, faculty, and staff are invited in the annual Unity Walk with the SMU President. [8]


      Nearly six decades after Dr. King’s speech at MSU, a group of SMU students devoted their time to ensure a Texas Historical Commission Marker was created to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech. In February 2023, SMU held an event to unveil the Texas Historical Commission plaque, which is located outside of McFarlin Auditorium.[9] SMU students have continuously embodied the mission statement of being “World Changers.” Fifty-seven years after Bert Moore invited Dr. King to campus, students organized a plaque to instil students to reflection on the advancements of race relations within our nation, the Dallas community, and on the campus of Southern Methodist University.



Works Cited


“Marked by History.” SMU, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.smu.edu/stories/marked-by-history.


“SMU Has Always Been a Meeting Place for Minds That Change the World.” SMU,




[1] Letter of invitation from Bert Moore, Vice President, Students’ Association, SMU, dated August 4, 1965. https://www.smu.edu/AboutSMU/MLKarchive


[2] Marked by history: A new historical marker honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1966 visit to campus. Learn how students — both then and now — made it happen. February 16, 2023. https://www.smu.edu/stories/marked-by-history


[3] Melissa Repko, SMU alumni remember a visit by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. January 18, 2014. https://www.smu.edu/AboutSMU/MLKarchive


[4] Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at SMU on March 17, 1966. SMU has always been a meeting place for minds that change the world. https://www.smu.edu/AboutSMU/MLKarchive


[5] Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech.


[6] Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech.


[7] Repko.


[8] Signature Programs, Dream Week, Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement.  https://www.smu.edu/StudentAffairs/SocialChangeandInterculturalEngagement/InterculturalEngagement/CulturalHeritageCelebrations


[9] Marked by history.


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Cite this Page:

Paige Edwards, “Dr. Martin Luther King at SMU, 1966,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed July 17, 2024, https://humanrightsdallasmaps.com/items/show/37.

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