Baptist minister and civil rights notable Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his most compelling speech before 250,000 people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.
But if King left his name in the annals of history with his “I Have A Dream” speech, another man would gain fame for his tenacious drive to behold King deliver his speech.
27-year-old Ledger Smith was a semi-professional skater who made his way into Washington D.C. for the march on roller-skates. Setting off from Chicago on August 17, Smith would exhaust 10 days and 685 miles to get to the Lincoln Memorial.
To condition himself for the grueling trip, the “Roller Man”, as he was fondly called, ran five miles every day in the two weeks leading up to the trip, skating for 10 hours a day.
The Baltimore Afro-American reported in its August 31, 1963 edition on Smith: “Broad shouldered, lean hipped, ‘Roller Man’ skated into the nation’s capital Tuesday, sore, aching, but hoping he was 700 miles closer to freedom.”
Along the way, he received encouragement from many. “He wore a freedom sign across his chest and back. People along the highway, some of them white, said “God bless you,” “I’ll see you in Washington,” “I wish you luck,” according to the Afro-American.
Smith worked as an entertainer doing tricks on roller-skates. He was a married man and father of three.