A child's curiosity leads to historic find
March 1, 2012
As a child, Deborah J. Hunter's curiosity would lead her down a path resulting in a brush with a significant historical figure.
A military family member, Hunter lived most of her youth in Germany in the culturally and ethnically diverse world of the U.S. military.
"My father was in the Army and all I knew was that I was always around different people and we all got along," said Hunter, special assistant to the executive director, Army Contracting
Command. "I have to say, looking back I was pretty naive about a lot of things."
Having never experienced racism, Hunter couldn't make any sense of it.
"My father was reassigned to Korea so my mother and I went to live in Farmville, Va., where I was born. I couldn't believe how things were."
Farmville was the home of R. R. Moten High School, one of the five plaintiffs that challenged segregation in public schools and would become part of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court
decision, Brown v. Board of Education. This decision declared segregation in public education unconstitutional.
Living in a world filled with segregation and injustice, Hunter asked her mother for answers. Her mother told her to write a letter to someone who might be able to answer her questions better than she could. The response she got lit a fire from within.
"I have received and greatly appreciate your very kind letter. I am gratified in your interest in our work," the reply read. "It is an inspiration to me and all who are committed in the struggle for human rights and dignity." The letter was signed by Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Back then, I didn't understand the relevance of it, but it did make me feel better about some things," she said.
Not much later, Hunter attended a civil rights march with her mother that included Stokley Carmichael and other civil rights leaders.
In 2002, Hunter lost her mother. Going through her mother's important papers she made a startling discovery. Her mother had saved the letter.
"I was pretty shocked. It had been decades since I had seen it," she said. "Not only had she saved the letter, she saved the envelope with some notes she had scribbled down.
Decades later, Hunter's involvement with civic organizations continues and she sees no reason to stop.
"As a nation we've come a long way. Many people my age never thought they'd see a black president. My mother would be so proud and happy if she could have seen that," Hunter said.
"We still have some room to grow and I am certain we will."