Stephen Michael Liptak Jr., a retired White House security officer who stood behind Martin Luther King during his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, died Sunday of complications of an infection at FutureCare Chesapeake in Arnold. He was 65 and lived in Arnold.
On Aug. 28, 1963, Mr. Liptak, then a Washington police officer, was assigned to provide security during the Poor People's March on Washington. At the Lincoln Memorial, he stood on the platform behind Dr. King. An estimated 200,000 people attended the event.
FOR THE RECORD - Stephen Michael Liptak Jr.: Because of an editing error, an obituary for Stephen Michael Liptak Jr., published in yesterday's editions of The Sun, incorrectly identified an event during which he guarded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Liptak guarded Dr. King during his "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, when more than 200,000 people gathered to lobby for passage of civil rights laws.
The Sun regrets the error.
"Every time that television shows the `I Have a Dream' speech, you can see his face and hat," said Mr. Liptak's wife, the former Alethea Memet, who married him in 1972. "He told me it was a very tense day."
On March 29, Vice President Al Gore sent Mr. Liptak a letter, commending him for his efforts that day. "The citizens of this county have truly been fortunate to have a person of your caliber working on behalf of their interests," Mr. Gore wrote.
Mr. Liptak joined the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department in 1957 and served for 10 years. He then joined the Executive Protective Service, an arm of the Secret Service. Dressed in a formal white tunic with brass buttons, he often stood at the Executive Mansion's security gates and checked visitors' credentials. He also worked security details at state dinners and receptions.
He served Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. In 1969, he traveled to Mr. Nixon's home in San Clemente, Calif., where he helped guard the president's family.
Co-workers recalled that Mr. Liptak, who sported a neatly trimmed mustache, enjoyed his position and was proud to have worked at the White House.
He retired in 1975 with the rank of sergeant and purchased a cab and drove for the Takoma-Langley and Blue Bird taxi companies in suburban Washington. He took fares out in the morning, but spent several hours each afternoon with a circle of friends at Laurel Park racetrack. After placing several small wagers, he resumed driving his cab.
Born in Pittsburgh, he was a 1952 graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School, where he won medals as a member of the swimming team. He later took classes in business administration.
He was a paratrooper in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division from 1953 to 1957 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. During his service, he was a member of the Army swimming team.
A Mass of Christian burial for Mr. Liptak will be offered at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Andrew by the Bay Roman Catholic Church, 701 College Parkway, where he was a member. He was formerly a member of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Laurel.
He is also survived by a son, Curtis Liptak of Harleyville, S.C.; four daughters, Liana L. Liptak of Lexington Park, Linnea M. Liptak of Arnold, Sharon Liptak of Frederick and Lynn Liptak of Olney; his mother, Anna V. Liptak of Pittsburgh; a brother, Charles Liptak of Laurel; a sister, Marianne Basher of Pittsburgh; and two granddaughters.