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'I have a little piece of his legacy': Portsmouth man shares signed copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s first book

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Posted at 9:58 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 13:46:54-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Inside a locked bookcase is where Greg Gardner keeps some of his most prized possessions.

“I’m just blessed to be able to have something like this - to be able to have it and hold it in my hand,” said Gardner.

In this book collector's hand is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first memoir, published in 1958.

When you flip the book open, “It is signed by him. His official autograph,” adds Gardner.

Dr. King’s signature in blue ink is across the first page of his book, "Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story."

“The book seller authenticated it, and I took it to a major auction house in New York City,” he adds.

Gardner, who calls himself an “aficionado of history,” purchased this book in 2009 for nowhere near what it’s worth now.

“When I looked it up recently, [it had a value of] $15,000,” he adds.

To preserve the book, he doesn’t open it often. There are about 220 pages with a few black and white photos from the Montgomery bus boycott.

“That’s Rosa Parks getting fingerprinted as they arrested her,” said Gardner.

This book also highlights unsung heroes who sacrificed their time and lives during the Civil Rights Movement.

“That’s the lesson in this book - that ordinary people can do great things,” he adds.

Related: 'I never felt so proud': Local man looks back on 1968 Newport News protest and how far we've come

Gardner, who is also an instructor at Norfolk State University, says we can all pull a page or two from this historical text written by a courageous leader.

“This helps to teach us not to repeat some of the same mistakes that have been made in the past,” he adds.

Gardner's copy of Dr. King's memoir was also featured in NSU's MLK Day Observance 2021. Click here for more on how the university honored King this year.