WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- Police and federal law enforcement were all terrified 50 years ago that someone might attack Martin Luther King before he had a chance to deliver his iconic "I Have A Dream" speech.

So they recruited African American police officers from across the region to protect him. Retired Jersey City, NJ homicide detective Calvin James was as close as anyone could get.

"It feels like yesterday," James said today from his home in Philadelphia.

James was literally at the right hand of history. There in a white cap to distinguish him as security, he was so close, a CBS producer at one point asked him to back up and get out of the shot. "I felt someone pulling on my leg...Martin Luther King, they just wanted him in the picture."

Commanders told Detective James to leave his gun at home.
He ignored them. "I had a weapon with me, but I had it in my ankle holster.... I figured the way it was going, there might be trouble."

In his mid-80s now, James had seen the brutality of segregation first hand. Traveling from his hometown in Brunswick, Virginia, he says the racists in Maryland were notorious -- their language, disturbing.

"They would say, no, get out, we don't serve n.... If you didn't do anything, they would call the police, and the police would lock you up. "

And so to James, the progress towards King's dream is especially remarkable. "I would say 100%, if people would only know had it was."

James grabbed one memento, a copy of King's speech.

"Got him to sign it, all the entertainers I could reach to sign it, and put it in my pocket."

His big regret, somehow when he got home, it was gone.

James was hoping to make it back down for the anniversary march. But, he says, his wife just got sick, and he thinks he probably will have to stay home in Philadelphia to care for her.

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