Man saved by student during civil rights march 50 years ago remembers the day

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - - 50 years ago, on Gayoso near Main Street, Dr. James Netters might have died. Instead, one of the first black city councilman in Memphis was saved by two young men.

Wayne Ingram was one of them. The Hamilton High School senior had led a group of students to Clayborn Temple, where they joined Dr. Martin Luther King's march to city hall.

The march was in support of striking sanitation workers.

The march turned violent when it reached Gayoso and Main as protesters on Beale Street clashed with police.

Dr. Netters was towards the front of the march as officers threw tear gas.

"I was blinded," Dr. Netters says.

Dr. Netters stumbled up Gayoso a little ways and collapsed. Police beat him until Ingram and his classmate saw what was happening.

"We covered him got him safe, took him to his car," Ingram says.

Dr. Netters didn't know who saved him until 20 years later when Ingram came to his church to do a documentary about that day.

"He grabbed me and hugged me and I grabbed him and hugged and we shared some tears together," Dr. Netters says.

Decades later, both men say race relations in Memphis are better but have a long way to go.

"Down underneath, segregation is still hiding and we got to work on that," Dr. Netters says.

Ingram hopes more black Memphians will seek public office, start businesses, and work to make impoverished neighborhoods better.

"We need to throw ourselves into the system and make it a better system," he says.

To him, it's one of the keys to honoring Dr. King's legacy.