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History of the T. Willard Hunter Speakers’ Corner

Using London’s Hyde Park Corner as inspiration, Reverend T. Willard Hunter began the Claremont Independence Day Speakers’ Corner in 1977 to showcase the constitutional right of free speech.

As a result, a variety of topics ranging from politics and religion to current events and history have graced the podium for nearly 40 years.

“Claremont didn’t just establish a speakers’ corner, we acquired an orator. And we inherited an orator in costume,” the late Judy Wright said of her friend at his 2009 funeral. “Mr. Hunter, unlike some of the rest of us, didn’t just show up at Memorial Park in shorts and a shirt. Wherever he was speaking, he arrived in period dress. When I think of Mr. Hunter, I think of him as Lincolnesque.”

Perhaps best known was Rev. Hunter’s 34-hour 8-minute address delivered outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in 1982—a speech he again delivered in London in 1984. He set a Guiness Book world record for that talk. Ms. Wright noted, “He often recited from memory—The Gettysburg Address, Casey at the Bat, Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and The Declaration of Independence.”

In 1981, Rev. Hunter organized a 9-mile walk from the San?Gabriel Mission to Olvera Street, retracing the final steps of Los Angeles’ founding families.

Former mayor Karen Rosenthal continues the tradition by coordinating the Speakers’ Corner each year. Ms. Rosenthal paid tribute to Rev. Hunter just after his death at Claremont’s 2009 Fourth of July celebration.

“Willard was our social conscience, our mentor and our friend,” she said. “We were very proud to have had him with us for so many Independence Days. He was truly a Claremont treasure.”

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Rev. Hunter spent his early career involved with Moral Re-Armament, a political movement that encouraged deference to honesty, unselfishness and love. He and his wife Mary Louise Hunter, who died in 2010, came to Claremont in 1959 after Rev. Hunter became the coordinator of development at the then Claremont Graduate School. Mr. Hunter, who lived his final years at Pilgrim Place, died at age 93 on June 29, 2009.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

 

2016 list of speakers:

10:50 a.m. Opening/Welcome

 

11 a.m. Mayor Sam Pedroza

“Making Sausage Work in Claremont’s

Decision Making”

 

11:10 a.m. Colin Tudor

“Declaration of Independence”

 

11:20 a.m. [open]

 

11:30 a.m. David Estrada

“Mental Health Care: a Civil Right or a Privilege?”

 

11:40 a.m. Ellen Taylor

“The Importance of Voting”

 

11:50 a.m. Susan Allen

 

12 noon Carolyn Gonzales

 

12:10 p.m. Kris Meyer

“Pray! Vote! Pray (1 Timothy 2:1-­2)”

 

12:20 p.m. Larry Ruotolo

“Son of Prop 13”

 

12:30 p.m. Beth Bingham

“We Are Their Future”

 

12:40 p.m. Martin McCleod

“Claremont’s Heritage”

 

12:50 p.m. Marie Sleet

“Prejudice for the Planet”

 

1 p.m. Michael Keenan

“Our Mississippi Freedom Challenge Before Us!”

 

1:10 p.m. Jim Belna

“Hubris and Humility in Civic Governance”

1:20 p.m. Douglas Lyon

“Remembering Independence Day”

 

1:30 p.m. Darlene Nicgorski

“If Not Now, When?”

 

1:40 p.m.  [open]

 

1:50 p.m.  [open]

 

2 p.m. Charles Gale

“Volunteers Make Things Happen”

2:10 p.m.  [open]

 

2:20 p.m. Dave Nemer

“Seeking Common Ground in 2016”

 

2:30 p.m.  [open]

 

2:40 p.m. Merrill Ring

 “Democracy in America”

 

2:50 p.m. Catherine Henley Erickson

“Fourth of July Poems”

Poll

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