tomTom Houck is a man who has at last gained freedom. Like the freedom that his former mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he worked for as a personal assistant spoke about, Houck is a man who has gained a different type of freedom for himself. Though not in the same way that Dr. King meant when he spoke the words “Free at Last” in his “I Have a Dream Speech,” but in a similar vein, Houck is free in his career to do what he loves. After spending his life helping others to gain freedom, Tom has at last gained his own freedom to do what he feels is now his calling. He has founded and conducts the Civil Rights Tour Atlanta, something he knows about firsthand all too well.

Houck is free to tell some of the little known facts about Atlanta’s Civil Rights history on his own time and in his own way on the tour that he launched with Atlanta Movie Tours.  In the city with many Civil Rights leaders and many historic sites related to the movement, Houck is free to shed breaths of fresh air about these significant leaders and the sites.  Very knowledgeable about Civil Rights because of his involvement and experiences during the era, Houck takes tour guests to the various places where history was made by Atlanta’s Civil Rights Heroes.  

The tour starts at the MLK National Historic Site Visitor Center at 450 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta where guests board a comfortable video equipped bus, where clips of Civil Rights icons including Andrew Young, John Lewis and Julian Bond are featured giving their first hand eyewitness account of historic places and events. Houck’s Atlanta Civil Rights tour is the only tour that takes you to the site of the famous Atlanta Student Movement Rush Memorial Church and to the graves at South-View Cemetery of Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. (Daddy King), community leader John Wesley Dobbs and other Atlanta notables.

houck homeThe tour also takes you to the house where Dr. King lived at the time of his assassination where he and Coretta raised their four children. Here Houck shares intimate details of his first visiting this home as an aide to Dr. King and meeting the family in 1966. He even recalls everything he had on his plate at his first dinner with the family.  It was during that meeting that he became a driver for the King family.  Houck reveals some never-before-heard fun facts about Dr. King and his family on his tour. “For one thing Dr. King had a great since of humor,” explains Tom. “He sometimes cracked jokes and pulled light pranks,” he laughs.

Inclusive of the birth house of Dr. King, the Ebenezer Baptist church he co-pastored with his father and the Old 4th Ward where he grew up, the tour gives participants a chance to stand in front of the crypt of MLK and Coretta Scott King. Houck’s tour also includes a glimpse of the old Paschal’s Restaurant where in the front dining room the morning politicos helped elect Atlanta first black mayor Maynard Jackson. Every location visited will evoke a time and period of Civil Rights including the office on Auburn Avenue where Dr. King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young and Hosea Williams made decisions that changed the world.

houck and popeHouck began his quest for freedom when he was expelled from high school in 1965 for marching in the Selma – Montgomery march. It was then that Houck committed himself to the Civil Rights movement to help others gain freedom.  From that year in 1965 until 1971, Houck worked with groups like the NAACP, SCLC and Voter Education Project (VEP) in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Washington DC, New York and Chicago. During his career as a public servant, Houck was arrested many times while participating in non-violent civil disobedient demonstrations to secure civil and voting rights for all Americans. Houck even filed a suit against Jefferson County, Alabama jails in 1966 that resulted in a landmark US Supreme Court decision to desegregate prisons across America.

(Photo above:Houck with writer Kitty Pope)

As the the youngest member of the SCLC executive staff, Houck worked with organizations to end the Vietnam War and he helped to mobilize the “Poor Peoples Campaign.” Houck also helped to organize Hispanics, Asians, Native American and poor whites for the long crusade across America culminating in the first truly rainbow community at “Resurrection City” on the Mall in Washington, DC. As an avid speaker, he represented poor whites at the kick-off of the Poor Peoples campaign in Memphis.

From 1970 until 1972 Houck worked as field director VEP, and with John Lewis and Julian Bond.  During this time the number of Black elected officials increased 100 fold. He also lobbied extensively for the historic passage of the 26th Amendment, granting 18 year olds the right to vote. In 1972 his efforts in lowering of the voting rights age paid off, and he was named deputy director of the Washington-based Youth Citizenship Fund. He headed up efforts to maximize first time 18-21 year old voter registration/education in 26 states. Houck returned to Georgia in 1973 where he worked tirelessly on various political campaigns including Andrew Young successful bid for Congress, Maynard Jackson’s election as Atlanta’s first black mayor and the campaigns of John Lewis and Zell Miller.

tour groupHocks dedicated work in politics and as a public servant, coupled with his keen interest in journalism gave Hock the freedom to launch a career in print and broadcast journalism in 1977. For the next 25 years Houck was an ever-present media sensation in Atlanta and also national media. From 1980 until 1991 he hosted a radio show on News radio WGST, and from 1981 until 2001Houck was a key panelist on Sunday News Conference and Georgia Gang on WSB TV and Fox 5.  The Civil Rights activist turned fiery journalist also once worked as a contributor to “Atlanta Magazine” and a columnist for “Creative Loafing.” Despite a lustrous career in journalism, he left the field in the early 2000’s to take another step toward true freedom.

Houck went on to start a public affairs company where he was free to maintain his strong passion for politics and work with various local and state and national candidates. Still a strong advocate for civil and human rights, Houck remains in demand as a speaker, especially on the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Having worked for the freedom of others all of his adult life, Houck himself is enjoying a new kind of freedom conducting the Atlanta Civil Rights Tour.  For all the years that he worked for Civil Rights in Atlanta, Houck is now free to share his accumulated knowledge with the public and world at large. “Free at Last, Free At Last,” Tom Houck is truly “Free at Last!”

For more information on Houck and his Atlanta tours, visit CivilRightsTour.com.

Some of the locations on the tourcr logo

  • King’s last house 234 Sunset Ave NW
  • Magnolia Ballroom
  • Hunter Street (MLK now) Historic street anchored by the old Paschal’s Restaurant
  • Morehouse College
  • Rush Memorial Church
  • South View Cemetery
  • SCLC & SNCC Freedom house and King’s old house
  • Auburn Avenue
  • King Center & King Crypt
  • King Memorial (US Parks Service)
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church
  • King Birthplace
  • Edgewood Avenue – Sweet Auburn Market
  • State Capitol & City Hall