By Leonard Greene, New York Daily News

At the age of 92, attorney and activist Clarence Jones reminds us of the life Martin Luther King Jr. might have enjoyed if he had been a simple church pastor or a seminary professor.

Jones, a top King lieutenant and a trusted friend of the slain civil rights leader, has been blessed with longevity and a perch from which to reflect on a great man and an even greater movement.

“I thought Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the greatest geniuses of our time,” said Jones, a lawyer and adviser who helped craft many of King’s soul stirring speeches. “An imperfect person and a perfect calling.”

Sixty years ago, Jones helped King craft his signature sermon, the “I Have a Dream” speech that is almost synonymous with King himself.

Jones remembers the days of preparation and exasperation at Washington D.C.’s Willard Hotel, where he and King and other advisers pored over the language of the speech, chasing away labor leaders and elected officials who all wanted to make a last-minute contribution.

It was as if King were making a State of the Union speech, and they all wanted to play a part.

Long story short, the speech was a hit.

Yet even now, as America commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, it is another speech from that day that still resonates with Jones.

Speakers in the lineup that day included Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader John Lewis, who would go on to be a long-serving congressman from Georgia.

But Jones says he remains drawn to the words of Joachim Prinz, a German-born rabbi who spoke out against the Nazi party there before joining the civil rights movement in America.

“His speech in my opinion is the most important speech other than the “I Have a Dream’ speech,” Jones said.

Prinz, who spoke just before King, was president of the American Jewish Congress, and Jones remembers his words today.

“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things,” Prinz said that day.

“The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”

Jones was blown away.

“You could hear a pin drop,” Jones said. “I thought to myself, ‘How prophetic.’ That’s the message we should take away today.’

Jones includes Prinz’ words in his new book, “Last of the Lions: An African American Journey in Memoir, which was released earlier this month ahead of the March on Washington anniversary.

In the book, Jones writes about his upbringing in a Catholic boarding school, and his friendship with King.

“We used to call ourselves the odd couple,” Jones said. “I knew how his mind worked.”

He also knew how King’s ego worked, so he sometimes had to put him in check.

“I used to say to Martin, ‘You’re brilliant but let’s be realistic. There is no way for 12% of the population to convince 83% of the population to do what they don’t want to do. We have to find a significant percent of the white population that agrees with us.’ I was just being realistic.”

Jones says that now to emphasize that the road ahead requires everyone to work together. His biggest concerns today are gun violence and Black on Black destruction.

“If Martin were alive today, I would craft for him a speech called, “The Black Killing Fields,” Jones said. “Nobody is telling it like it is.”

Jones is. That’s because he hasn’t stopped dreaming yet.

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.