And, Mitt Romney would not have known about the event, let alone had a chance to “see” it. He was at that time in the middle of his two-year mission for the Mormon church in Le Havre, France. By his own description and others’, he was cut off from virtually all contact with his family; and at the time, King’s Grosse Pointe appearance was no more than local news.
The original mention, in Broder’s 1967 book, of a Romney-King Grosse Pointe march might have resulted from an accidental conflation of several different events.
In June 1963, King marched in Detroit, and delivered an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech; Governor George Romney did not participate, according to news accounts of the time.
Later that month, a local organization of roughly 50 members, called the Grosse Pointe Human Rights Council, held a walk through their town in support of open housing.
King had already left the state, and Romney did not participate in the Grosse Pointe walk, according to records from the time.
George Romney would later lead a 10,000-person march through Detroit, but not with King.
Although Broder’s book contained the brief mention, there is nothing in the public record to suggest that George Romney himself ever claimed to have marched with King.
Had George Romney ever marched with Martin Luther King Jr., it almost certainly would have been documented. From the mid-’50s through 1962, Romney was one of the country’s most prominent business leaders — for him to travel South for a civil-rights march would have been remarkable. From January 1963 on, as governor of Michigan and a presumed Presidential candidate, Romney was one of the most visible political figures in the country.
UPDATE: ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SAYS “TOGETHER” MAY MEAN DIFFERENT CITIES, DIFFERENT DAYS
A spokesperson for Mitt Romney now tells the Phoenix that George W. Romney and Martin Luther King Jr. marched together in June, 1963 -- although possibly not on the same day or in the same city.
Romney, according to one piece of written source material provided by the campaign, made a “surprise” appearance at a small march in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in late June -- several days after King led a much larger march in Detroit. Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom suggests that these two were part of the same “series” of events, co-sponsored by King and the NAACP, and is thus consistent with Romney’s claim that “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.”
“The record is convincing and clear – George Romney marched with Martin Luther King and other civil rights demonstrators,” Fehrnstrom wrote in an email.
Fehrnstrom had originally told the Phoenix that the two men marched together in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, either in June 1963 or March 1968, a claim the Phoenix called into question earlier today. An additional source, William LeFevre of the Reuther Library at Wayne State University, who is in charge of the papers of the Grosse Pointe Civil Liberties Association, has since confirmed to the Phoenix that George Romney was not at the 1968 event, and that King was not at the 1963 event.
Fehrnstrom now says that the event in question was King’s “Freedom March” in Detroit on June 23, 1963.