On a cool Saturday afternoon in January 1954, I set out to drive from Atlanta, Georgia, to Montgomery, Alabama. It was one of those clear wintry days when the sun bedecked the skies with all of its radiant beauty. After starting out on the highway, I happened to have turned on the radio. Fortunately, the Metropolitan Opera was on the air with a performance of one of my favorite operas—Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. So with the captivating beauty of the countryside, the inspiration of Donizetti’s inimitable music, and the matchless splendor of the skies, the usual monotony that accompanies a relatively long drive—especially when one is alone—was absorbed into meaningful diversions.
. . .
Not long after I arrived a friend was gracious enough to take me by the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where I was to preach the following morning. A solid brick structure erected in Reconstruction days, it stood at one corner of a handsome square not far from the center of town. As we drove up, I noticed diagonally across the square a stately white building of impressive proportions and arresting beauty, the State Capitol—one of the finest examples of classical Georgian architecture in America. Here on January 7, 1861, Alabama voted to secede from the Union, and on February 18, on the steps of the portico, Jefferson Davis took his oath of office as President of the Confederate States. For this reason, Montgomery has been known across the years as the Cradle of the Confederacy. Here the first Confederate flag was made and unfurled. I was to see this imposing reminder of the Confederacy from the steps of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church many times in the following years.
The Lucia Dr. King listened to on the way to Montgomery was broadcast on January 30, 1954, and featured Lily Pons as Lucia, Jan Peerce as Edgardo, and, as Normanno, James McCracken, who made his Metropolitan debut with this particular production.