Martin Luther King's driver on life with a King

ATLANTA -- For many, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is a day of public service. Someone who knew Dr. King very well has made it his mission to keep his story alive.

Now 68, Tom Houck once drove for a King -- the leader of the movement. Today, he gives civil rights tours in Atlanta.

In 1966, Houck, a 19-year-old civil rights volunteer, admired the King family. By chance one day, he met them at lunch.

"It was really Coretta that made me the accidental driver."

He told the story in Ebenezer Baptist, the King family church. "She said that she had a driver that was taking her kids to school, but that he just wasn't working out, and could I drive the kids to school."

"This is a white kid -- we're talking about 1966 -- driving four black kids around Atlanta," Houck continued.

Houck was also the driver for Dr. King, who later lobbied to keep Houck in the movement and out of Vietnam. Houck gave CBS News a private tour.

"He was a chain smoker. He smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, which Coretta hated. He was a great pool player. He would have a beer and belt one down and then he would show us tricks he learned on the way. He was a very kind, and very gentle person."

Houck has a dream: to keep this history alive.

"You have to be over 50 to even remember Martin Luther King. I want people to be involved with what King was about and his vision 365 days a year."

Behind the wheel, he had a front seat on history.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.