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October 27, 2016

Norcross announces historic designation of Camden's MLK Jr. home

Historic Homes MLK

The row home at 753 Walnut St. in Camden, seen in 2017, continues to deteriorate. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. used the address to file a police complaint when a white tavern owner in Maple Shade refused to serve him and three companions in 1950.

The Camden rowhome where civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr. boarded with a friend while they were seminary students has officially received historic designation from a local historical organization, marking the culmination of an initiative to save it from demolition.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01) announced Thursday that the property at 753 Walnut St. will rescue the home, which has been empty for decades.

“The actions of the Camden City Historical Society illustrate the urgent need to preserve and protect this important piece of American history and South Jersey history," Norcross said in a statement. "With the help of all our community partners, this home will stand as a reminder of the struggles of those who fought for their civil rights, and as a symbol of hope for those still working to achieve equality and fairness for all."

King lived at the home in the 1950s with his best friend, Walter McCall, while they attended the former Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, near Chester in Delaware County. During that period, a white bar owner in Maple Shade pulled a gun on the pair and their dates, an event historians believe set King on his path to challenging racism in the United States.

Ownership of the home, last occupied by Jeanette Lily Hunt, has been taken over by the Cooper's Ferry Partnership, which will act as a custodian and preserve the landmark.

Attempts to save the property were spearheaded by a combination of grassroots advocates and Norcross, who enlisted the help of King's friend, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and other leaders in Camden.

Community leaders are currently in the process of identifying an organization to maintain the house once it has been preserved.

(Full disclosure: U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross is the uncle of Executive Director Lexie Norcross.)