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Army Staff Sgts. Jennifer Simmons and John Dukes sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during a luncheon Wednesday at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, that celebrated Black History Month and honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Army Staff Sgts. Jennifer Simmons and John Dukes sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during a luncheon Wednesday at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, that celebrated Black History Month and honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
Army Staff Sgts. Jennifer Simmons and John Dukes sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during a luncheon Wednesday at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, that celebrated Black History Month and honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Army Staff Sgts. Jennifer Simmons and John Dukes sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during a luncheon Wednesday at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, that celebrated Black History Month and honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
Chief Petty Officer Chris Nile served as the keynote speaker during a luncheon Wednesday at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, that celebrated Black History Month and honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Chief Petty Officer Chris Nile served as the keynote speaker during a luncheon Wednesday at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, that celebrated Black History Month and honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — Chief Petty Officer Chris Nile says he can walk in public and hold his wife’s hand thanks to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a beautiful, sweet, wonderful black wife,” Nile, who is white, said Wednesday at a Naval Support Activity Naples luncheon that celebrated Black History Month and honored the late civil rights leader.

In his famous 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King spoke of having a dream in which white and black children could play side by side, and walk hand in hand, Nile said.

“Well, my kids can hold their own hands,” Nile jested, drawing laughter from the crowd of about 30 people who attended the memorial celebration sponsored by the Naples-based African American Heritage Committee.

Nile said that while he wasn’t the committee’s first choice as guest speaker — a rear admiral and the base commander had previous engagements — he was, after all, a perfect choice.

“I am living the dream [King] shared with everyone else,” Nile said. “Because of what he did, I’m able to walk down the street holding my wife’s hand.”

And, behind every good man is a strong woman, Nile told the gathering, referring not just to his wife, but also to Coretta Scott King, the civil rights activist’s widow, who died Tuesday at the age of 78.

President Bush, in a statement, honored Coretta Scott King’s life.

“Mrs. King was a remarkable and courageous woman, and a great civil rights leader,” Bush said. “She carried on the legacy of her husband, … [and her] lasting contributions to freedom and equality have made America a better and more compassionate nation.”

Since 1926, Americans have recognized black history every February.

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