By Billy Corriher
Local residents braved the gusty winter weather Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the fifth annual parade in Jonesboro.
The parade wound through Jonesboro for over an hour and a half, but those in attendance didn't mind a lengthy parade.
Arthur Hughes, 49, of Riverdale, stood along Main Street with a sign honoring King as the parade made its way from Government Circle down Main Street to the Lee Street Recreation Area.
"I'm a believer in all of Dr. King's doctrine," Hughes said. "If it wasn't for him, we'd still be in 1950's mode."
Hughes said he remembers having to use separate water fountains and bathrooms as a child.
"I was a small kid, and I just followed orders," he said. "I just didn't understand."
Hughes brought his nephews with him to the parade.
"I always bring them to occasions like this," he said. "I want them to experience it and know that the job is not finished. Maybe they'll make a difference, too."
The parade was sponsored by the Masons of Elijah Summit Lodge 309, the F.&A.A. York Masons, and the Eastern Stars of Electra Chapter 109. Worshipful Master Herman Turner, of the Masons of Elijah, said this year's parade included about 70 organizations, making it as large as last year's parade, the largest on record.
State Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, was in the parade and said it's imperative to honor King for the sacrifices he made.
"It's important for us to see that he gave up his life n his life as a husband, as a father, as a brother n so we could have the freedoms that we have today," he said.
Jordan said seeing all kinds of citizens, white and black, attending the parade is evidence of King's impact.
"It means that his struggle was not in vain," he said. "I see progress every day."
Jonesboro resident Karen Betts lives right off Main Street and brought three of her children to see the parade when they heard the music.
Betts said it's good for all children to be exposed to the history of the civil rights struggle and Martin Luther King.
"And, my daughter loves a parade," she said.
Fayetteville native Dorothy Stinchcomb, 57, said it is important for everyone to honor King's ideas.
"People need to come closer, that's what (King) would have wanted," she said.
Stinchcomb said she remembers King's speeches during the civil rights struggle giving her a great sense of pride.
"It's something about his speeches that sent chills through my body," she said.
Stinchcomb said she was in Atlanta when she heard about King's assassination in Memphis in 1968.
"I was so sad. It didn't seem real," she said. "I even went to view his body (at a service in Atlanta). There were so many people there."
Stinchcomb said she hopes younger generations don't forget King's struggles and accomplishments.
"There won't be another one like him," she said.
Dr. Michael Battle, president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, delivered a powerful and motivating sermon Sunday afternoon at Andrews Chapel United Methodist Church in Jonesboro.
The sermon was part of the nineteenth annual Clayton County Ecumenical Service to celebrate the national observance of King's birthday, sponsored by the Concerned Black Citizens Coalition of Clayton County.
Gail Davenport, president of the coalition, said, "We are overjoyed that the citizens of Clayton County pay tribute to Dr. King, a true Drum Major for Justice."
The Greater St. Peter African Methodist Episcopal Church Mass Choir provided spirituals and gospel songs to set the tone. The Cedar Grove Mime Group and Rev. Milton Graves of New Life Community Baptist Church presented a special tribute to King.
Xernona Clayton, executive producer of the Turner Broadcasting System's Trumpet Awards and friend of King, remembered him Saturday at the thirteenth annual Clayton County Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast at Fort Gillem Army Base.
Ms. Clayton, the first black woman to host a television show in the Southeast, gave personal experiences about her work with Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.