By Johnny Jackson
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Willie Turner recalled the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He said he was a child, living in Topeka, Kansas, when the news broke.
"I remember crying that day, and I cried all day, along with the grown folks," said Turner, who was honored as Grand Marshal of the Henry County Branch of the NAACP's Martin Luther King Day Parade.
The 53-year-old said he realized, years later as an adult, why he cried that spring day in 1968. He said he did so, for what King represented in the world -- hope, and equality.
"I'm honored today to be the grand marshal on this day of celebration -- celebrating, not only Dr. King's birthday, but his legacy and what it means to be a black man," he said. "Dr. King stood for equality for all, and we've gotten away from that. We have got to get back to our values, and take this as, not a day off, but as a day to really think about where we are as a country."
Parade organizers estimate some 700 people participated in the Henry County Branch of the NAACP's 10th Annual Martin Luther King Day Parade and Program.
"We were blessed to have no rain," said LaSonji Rivers, who helped organize Monday's parade and program.
Among the parade's participants were several state and local dignitaries and officials, including former Henry County Commissioner Johnny Basler, and his successor Bruce Holmes, of District V. Area church groups and various school and service organizations also were in attendance.
McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland gave the Martin Luther King Program greeting, in the company of other officials such as, McDonough City Councilman Rufus Stewart (at-large), Henry County Commissioner Fred Auletta (District II), State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-District 44), and State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-District 10).
"Let us honor Dr. King by working together to find the map to the other side," said Mayor Copeland, acknowledging the Jan. 8 shooting in Arizona as a reason to revisit the King legacy.
"I thought of Dr. King's legacy of non-violence...," he continued. "Intolerance should have no foundation among us."
Councilman Rufus Stewart called on residents to "live love daily," in the philosophy of King.
"How do we keep the dream alive," Stewart asked. "We've got to live it [love] daily."
"Let us all be co-workers with God, and help each other," added Commissioner Auletta.
Daryl Stover, senior pastor of Cornerstone of Faith Christian Church, was the program's guest speaker. He spoke about how citizens can serve their communities by not being afraid to use their given talents, or "gifts," to help others.
"All of us are going to be called upon one way or another," Stover said. "Your gifts, being wrapped up, are no good."
"Today is a day of service," added Erik Charles, Vice Chairman of the Henry County Board of Education (District IV). "It's a day to be thankful that we're here, and reach out to help, if you can."