A look back at the history of San Antonio’s MLK March

March has about 300,000 participants every year

SAN ANTONIO – Organizers say the City of San Antonio’s Martin Luther King, Jr. March is now the largest in the country. But when the event first started 52 years ago, only a handful of people participated.

The Rev. Dr. Raymond Callies started the march on his own in 1968 to call attention to the need for basic infrastructure on the East Side, according to city officials.

“He was a lone ranger, just wanting to promote the cause of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Dr. Keely Petty, chairperson of the MLK, Jr. Commission.

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Over the years, the event gained traction. In 1987, the City of San Antonio created the MLK, Jr. Commission.

“I think the swelling of the march began because everyone has an interest in dignity,” said Petty. “Everyone has an interest in justice. Everyone has an interest in civil rights for all people from all walks of life.”

Every year, people from across the country travel to San Antonio to take part in the march. Some notable past participants include members of Dr. King’s family, activists involved in the civil rights movement known as Freedom Riders and Rosa Parks.

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The march now has about 300,000 participants every year.

“We have a lot of dreamers in San Antonio, and they have an intense desire to keep the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alive,” Petty said. “We’re still fighting for equality.”

The annual event is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 20, at 10 a.m. It begins at MLK Academy and ends at Pittman-Sullivan Park.

About the Authors

Andrew Wilson is a digital journalist and social media producer at KSAT.

Valerie Gomez is lead video editor and graphic artist for KSAT Explains. She began her career in 2014 and has been with KSAT since 2017. She helped create KSAT’s first digital-only newscast in 2018, and her work on KSAT Explains and various specials have earned her a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media and multiple Emmy nominations.

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