James Nixon presents the MLK Memorial hat to Talladega College president Bill Hawkins

In a community as close knit as Talladega, Alabama, it is important for everyone to look out for one another. So when James Nixon and his wife, Elaine, visited Washington, D.C. for the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on October 16, he thought of Talladega College when he picked up his souvenirs after the dedication was over.

The people in the South are friendly and hospitable, and James Nixon decided it would be a great gesture to donate a MLK Memorial Dedication hat to Talladega College, the oldest HBCU in Alabama.

“I thought that it would reach more people to be able to see it if we put it on display somewhere than me just totting it around showing it,” said Nixon, a retired construction worker.

James Nixon, like a lot of other townspeople, loves and supports Talladega College because it represents their home. Nixon also lent a hand in helping Talladega College, as he helped build Crawford Hall and other apartment buildings for the college.

It was not the first time the Nixons had left their sweet home Alabama to visit the nation’s capital. Elaine Nixon and other Talladega County public schools employees were invited to the White House and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama for their work to fight childhood obesity.

Speaking about his visit to the MLK Memorial, Nixon said he marveled at the ambiance of the event. “Everybody was smiling, but really it was a moment to access the true meaning of what was happening and what was taking place.” He added that he enjoyed the performances of Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.

Talladega College holds a special moment in time in the life of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. It was at Talladega College where Martin Luther King, Jr. met fellow Alpha brother and reverend Andrew Young. The two would go on to do great work for the Civil Rights Movement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. An iconic picture of the two on the campus –the only one of its kind—exists in the office of the college’s president, Dr. Billy C. Hawkins. It has and probably never will be allowed to be copyrighted, as it holds a special place in the college’s history and heart.

President Hawkins invited Nixon into his office and was pleased to entertain his guest. Growing up, Nixon did not adhere to the teachings and beliefs of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. H grew up prejudiced against blacks, but grew to respect Dr. King for his work in ministry.

“He is a great man, a great Christian,” Nixon said of Dr. King. “He led more people to salvation than we could ever account for.”

“I wanted the Memorial memorabilia to be appreciated by more than just me. I felt that by donating it to [an HBCU], that could let more people enjoy it.”