Art Shay was there when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago in 1966, bringing his crusade for racial justice to a northern city where segregation in housing, education and employment mirrored conditions in the South.
Art Shay was the photographer who captured an image for Life magazine of a young black couple moving into an otherwise all-white Chicago neighborhood. Chicagoist reprinted the image and other Shay images of the King era in a King Day remembrance: From the Vault of Art Shay: Remembering Dr. King.
Art Shay was also there at King's funeral. Assigned to Memphis immediately after the assassination, Shay wrote recently (Remembering Dr. King's Death) about being with Gary Wills. Shay and Wills
went to the funeral home preparing King's body for burial. It was eerie, for all the radio stations were playing his speeches endlessly, listening to his voice while we could hear the sounds of the funeral face-restorers frantically working to make his half-shot-away face look presentable for his open casket showing. The next day I rode the back of the big open truck as Mrs. King and her family walked in the first row of a hundred-wide, two-hundred-deep funeral procession.
It was a moment from King's life, from his journey to Chicago, that carried the deepest reverberations for one family. A Shay photograph from that time was on display in a window of the Thomas Masters Gallery. It showed King and nearby a police officer named Barry Batson.
Batson's wife, Helen, remembers that time: "The word in the streets was that somebody would try to kill Dr. King in Chicago. My husband said 'It's not going to happen on my watch.' "
King then was 37 years old, determined that his dedication to civil rights, which had already earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, could expand from its southern base to find even more success in cities in the north.
Art Shay, a prolific photographer for Time and Life magazine, captured an image of King at a July rally in Soldier Field in Chicago. To King's right is a tall, thin officer, in fedora and suit: Barry Batson.
As recalled in Preacher, Photographer, Policeman, by chance Batson's daughter in law saw that photo in the gallery window, decades after the rally. That moment brought the Batson family together to honor the memory of the civil rights leader and the memory of that brave officer who made sure that, on his watch, Dr. King would remain safe.