70 something years old, but looks approximately late 50’s to early 60’s.
At eighteen, Hezekiah Ezra Boone, was shining shoes in front of the Hotel Theresa, a Black hotel in New York, when a young dapper Black man with an entourage requested his services. As he shined the man’s shoes, he overheard the conversation the man was having with the members of his group. They were talking about their practical strategies for changing the second-class plight of Black Americans. The man looked the young Hezekiah in the eyes and told him with the conviction and authority of a biblical Peter or Paul, that the day was coming that he, Hezekiah would never have to shine shoes or do any menial labor ever again. He asserted that maybe the young man to which he spoke, might own a string of shoeshine stands or a shoe polish manufacturing company or, maybe be the CEO of a large professional corporation. Hezekiah was awestruck. Right then and there he pledged in his heart to become a disciple of this man. This man it turned out was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hezekiah asked one of this man’s entourage how he could go about working with this man to spread this message to all Black people. The man told him to just show up when there was an event or gathering. He explained that there was no paying job and the young Hezekiah would have to earn his own way, but the man assured him that the work he was about to take on was a great honorable and important work that would pay off in ways the young Hezekiah could never imagine.
Hezekiah took the man’s contact information and kept in regular contact with him. The first event was a protest in 1955 in Montgomery Alabama, a bus boycott. Hezekiah caught a Greyhound bus part of the way from New York and hitched a ride the rest. He got to the event one day prior to the activity. The young Martin Luther King remembered him and was impressed with Hezekiah’s conviction and tenacity to join the movement. Hezekiah took odd jobs between events but always made himself available for whatever duty was needed. Dr. King mentored the young Hezekiah and encouraged him to go to back to school and get a college degree. The young Hezekiah did a work study arrangement with Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed a 4-year degree majoring in Sociology with a minor in Theology. He continued his work with the Civil Rights Movement, earning the reverence and respect of Dr. King for his genuine dedication. Hezekiah began to become well known among the Black Christian community across the country. He had a profound and charismatic communication style. He was offered a commission at a small Black Baptist church in Nashville. People began to swarm to his services hoping that through him they could touch the hem of Dr. King’s garment.
Dr. King's movement was to empower Black America through the Christian Conservative values promoted by the Republican platform. When President Kennedy's representatives offered the young Dr. King a "free get out of jail pass" if King would deliver his constituency to the Democrat party, he did it. Jail and the assaults had begun to wear on King and his entourage. He cut the deal, believing that the conservative values would survive any political labels. King went on National TV and pronounced contrary to his Republican affiliation, "No self respecting Black man would every vote for a Republican." the arrests and harassment stopped. Then, shortly thereafter, Dr. King was killed in 1968. This was a devastating blow for Hezekiah whose very identity now was based on his association with Dr. King and the uncompromising principles he adhered to. But now, compromise and then death. It created a major paradigm shift for Boone. He knew full well, that the light of his charisma and message was that of Dr. King. Boone had no light of his own. Even his Christian ministry was borrowed and fed through this source. He hadn’t had to be responsible for lifting the people, he was only a soldier. At this point he was faced with abandonment of the movement or fake it as long as he could. He was faced with stumbling through the new mental environment of compromising sure principles. When was it appropriate and necessary to draw the line? He lost sight of sure principle more and more.
The people who looked to King, were like lost sheep having no shepherd. When Hezekiah stepped up, they readily accepted his leadership. Hezekiah was no Dr. King. What he largely lacked was the patience to endure the ingratitude of the people for his sacrifices. He was disheartened by their unwillingness to take charge of their lives themselves instead of relying on him or anyone to do it for them.
What came with this limelight were the clandestine, howbeit unscrupulous offers. These offers promised far more money and fame than he had ever dreamed. He also found that accepting these side deals relieved a lot of the pressures put on him as the "Black savior". The limelight also afforded him the opportunity to enjoy any and every indulgence that came his way. This included sex, drugs, spending, everything hedonistic that presented itself. It all became his addiction. He assuaged his conscience by reminding himself of the fire hoses, the dogs, the jail stays he endured in the name of the Civil rights movement. He had paid his dues, he deserved every dime and indulgence he got, the way he saw it.