Chance encounter with Dr. King changes course of Cleveland judge’s life

CLEVELAND - Dreams don't die with the dreamer, the message lives on during the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For one Cleveland Municipal Court judge, it was a chance encounter just five with Dr. King that allowed him to dream bigger than he had before.

In 1963, Charles Patton was just 13 when he heard Dr. King was in Cleveland. He along with his friends dropped their basketballs and headed over to Corey United Methodist Church on East 105th Street and had trouble getting inside because the crowd was so large.

Patton says he managed to find a seat in the basement and could only listen to the speech on the radio. To his surprise when it was over, he came face to face with the man he hoped to meet.

"He [Dr. King] said we need some professionals in the movement,"recalls Patton. "I'm wondering what he's talking about by professionals? He says, 'Architects, engineers, doctors and lawyers; what you want to do when you grow up?' I looked at him and couldn't talk I was speechless. He said, 'You should be an attorney.'"

The suggestion left a lasting impression, not only did Charles become an attorney he raised the bar and now sits on the bench as Judge Patton.

"I have a picture of him here in my office when the voting rights act was being signed," said Judge Patton. "So I think about him all the time and the impact he had on a lot of aspects of our life."

The judge says if it was not for that chance encounter with Dr. King, he may not be here today.

"I saw a lot of gold stars on windows in my community and didn't know what they were for a while and once I found out I remember those gold stars and I think about them," said Judge Patton. "I could have been one of those persons who went over there [Vietnam] and didn't come back."

He now serves on the Veterans Treatment Docket, intend to serve active duty military members and veterans involved in court proceedings.

"When I get invited to come to a school and talk, they'll ask 'What do you do as a judge?' It gives me a chance to talk about it, talk about education, the importance of it and you know helping the community. Serving the community, so yea what he planted in me is still there."

***More on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr here***