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Rally, march to remember ‘Dayton’s Martin Luther King”

“You have a lot of people who say he should have minded his business, but that’s not who he was.”

He did not deliver the historic “I have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but a local man made a mark on Civil Rights and for that he should be remembered, organizers of an event planned in the honor of W.S. McIntosh say.

“He was like the local Martin Luther King,” community activist Ellis Hutchinson said of his role model. “There are so many people who contributed to the struggle.”

A community rally and march near the site of McIntosh’s 1974 murder in 100 block of South Main St. will be held March 15 to honor McIntosh and other locals who fought for equality here.

Speakers will be a part of the proceeding program set to start at 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the Main Branch of the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E 3rd St.

Born William Sumpter McIntosh and known as “Mac,” McIntosh gave his life for the Dayton after moving here from Little Rock, Ark., in 1941, Hutchinson said.

In recognition of his work the Dayton City Commission renamed Riverview Park the W.S. McIntosh Park in 1996.

The W. S. McIntosh Memorial Leadership Award at the University of Dayton is awarded annually to Dayton minority students to cover tuition and other costs.

Despite the memorials, Mike Gist, also an event organizer, said many area youth don’t know McIntosh’s story.

“(They) are not aware of him and the impact he had,” Gist said. “He was like a father to a lot of people here in Dayton.”

Dayton’s Martin Luther King

Labeled a troublemaker by some and investigated as a communist in 1952 by the Ohio Un-American Activities Commission, McIntosh established the West Side Citizens Council in 1955 and used it to protest discriminatory hiring practices in West Dayton markets and banks.

In an efforts to integrate restaurants, he organized black students at Roosevelt High School.

The man described as big, strong and gentle lead pickets at city hall to protest police brutality and its discrimination in hiring.

McIntosh rallied against Famous Clothing Store and the A&P grocery on West Third Street for hiring practices.

And as executive director of Dayton’s CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) chapter and a business owner, McIntosh helped organize the 1963 picket against Rike-Kumler Co. to get blacks better jobs in the downtown store.

After protests and boycotts, Rike’s and other downtown stores began hiring blacks as clerks and salespeople.

He was trying to help people,” Charlene McIntosh, W.S. McIntosh’s widow, said.

Gist called McIntosh, the owner of a black cultural store, and Jesse Gooding, president emeritus of the Dayton unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People, his heroes.

“We learned the essence of who we were and what we were about,” Gist said. “We are proud black people from the Mother Land.”

The Struggle

A fire was set on the front porch of Mcintosh’s house after he tried to calm tension during the 1966 West Dayton riots. It caused $3,000 in damage.

In a 1993 article, Rev. Walter J. Dunson, also a local civil rights leader who marched with King in 1965 , remembered McIntosh’s character as he and other civil rights leaders helped.

“And McIntosh, oh man! The rioters were throwing rocks and things at street cars, and Mac walked out in the middle of the street and put his hands up and said, ‘Hey, brothers, sisters. Don’t do this, don’t do this. We’ve got black brothers and sisters on these street cars.’

“We told him, ‘Hey, Mac, what are you doing? Don’t you know your behind is not bullet-proof?’

“He never believed a black person was going to hurt him. That’s what ultimately cost him his life.”

Sudden death

McIntosh was gunned down March 4, 1974 as he tried to stop the two teenagers who held up Potasky Jewelers, then at 41 S. Main St.

He was 53.

As Dayton Daily News columnist Dale Huffman recounted in a 2000 article, then 16-year-old Derek Farmer and his 18-year-old nephew Calvin Farmer pistol whipped the store’s 81-year-old owner Harry Potasky during the robbery attempt.

McIntosh called for the youth to stop as they ran out of the store with a bag of jewelry.

He was shot dead.

Before they were apprehended two hours later, the Farmers ambushed and killed 43-year-old Dayton police Sgt. William K. Mortimer when he tried to stop them.

Hutchinson said McIntosh only intervened to help the young men make the right decision.

“He was a real nice man, a caring man,” Hutchinson said. “You have a lot of people who say he should have minded his business, but that’s not who he was.”

The Farmers were convicted and served time in prison for the killings.

In 1999, Derek Farmer became the first convicted murderer in Ohio history to be sworn in as a lawyer.

The criminal defense attorney's law license remains active, according to Ohio Supreme Court records.