Dr. James Walton

Two California State University Fresno professors are in Washington, D.C., today for the historical inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Dr. James Walton, chair of the English Department, and Dr. Marnel Niles, a professor in the Communication Department, this morning witnessed the first African-American to ascend to the nation’s highest office.

In 1963, Walton was in the nation’s capital to participate in the civil rights movement’s March on Washington and witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

And while the symbolism of that battle cry for racial equality and harmony 45 years ago resonates on a personal level with the inauguration of the country’s first African-American to become president, Walton says Dr. King would be impressed not so much with the racial element, but with the quality of the man who is taking the oath.

“Dr. King was a scholar and President Obama is a first-rate mind,” Walton said. “And I think it’s his brilliance – with a Harvard law degree, heading the Harvard Law Review, his wife has a Harvard law degree – I think it is President Obama’s brilliance that is distinguishing, that would please Dr. King. This man is an inspiration to the world.”

Dr. Marnell Niles

Tonight, Walton is attending the American Music Inaugural Ball Hosted by Dionne Warwick at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel as the guest of a personal friend, Laura McIntyre, mother of singer Macy Gray.

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