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Doctor of osteopathic medicine and civil rights leader speaks at VT

BLACKSBURG, Va.- – The first and only African-American president of the American Osteopathic Association made his way to the New River Valley Wednesday. Civil rights leader William Anderson, D.O., spoke to students as part of the third annual Black History Month series named in his honor. 

He's one of the founding members for the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Virginia Tech.  At 91-years-old, Anderson is still inspiring the next generation of doctors. He spoke to students about why Black History Month is important to American history. 

And the reason is at least in the United States blacks occupy a unique position and how they got here and what they did after they got here and how they moved from being slaves to become president of these United States," said Anderson. 

Anderson says there is more work to be done so everyone can have equal opportunities. Which was something he didn't have in a segregated southwest Georgia. 

"It did not matter what your sex was, it was colored restroom. Those were the conditions that existed at the time. I was now educated as a physician trying to practice medicine down there and even then I was treated like all the other blacks. I couldn't register. I could not vote," said Anderson. 

He met one of the most iconic American leaders through his wife. He still has one of the pictures Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, also a prominent civil rights leader. 

"She had a brother that was an aspiring preacher. His best friend was also an aspiring  preacher and guess who it was? Martin Luther King (Jr.)," Anderson said. 

Anderson remembers when King would practice his preaching skills at the home of his in-laws. 

"I was admonishing Martin Luther King Jr. college student at Morehouse, to shut up. Not realizing that I was telling a future world leader, a leader of a social movement this country has ever witnessed. I was just telling him to just shut up. That did not destroy our friendship," said Anderson. 

Anderson is also known for his civil rights work in Albany, Georgia, where he was arrested for his efforts. 

"They started the movement only because they were trying to get people registered to vote. And when I saw that and recognized they were doing that for me and my family and my children. That's when I joined them that's when I got involved. It was not my idea to do this, mind you," he said. 

In terms of race relations today, Anderson says conditions are going backwards.

"There is more racial animosity, more racial hatred, more discrimination at the individual level now than there was before Obama was president.

He says it up to students at VCOM to aid in fixing the problems related to segregation and discrimination in society.