By Cynthia M. Jeffries
Tupelo insurance salesman Marvin Jones is normally hard at work on Mondays, preparing for the rest of his workweek.
But this Monday, the doors to his business were closed.
Jones was one of the more than 500 people who turned out for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebration commemorating the slain civil rights leader’s birthday, Jan. 15, 1929.
The event was held in the St. Paul United Methodist Church Christian Life Center on North Spring Street.
The purpose of the program was to remember the strides and accomplishments the Atlanta-born minister made for civil rights.
“It’s our way of keeping the dream alive,” said Gloria A. Ford, president of the Modern Beautician’s Club, one of the sponsors of Monday’s event.
“We get caught up in the dream. We forget that the dreamer was nothing more than just a preacher – a man of God,” said the Rev. Robert Jamison, pastor of New Providence Baptist Church and the program’s guest speaker.
King was instrumental in the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Law which made the right to vote available to all people and helped make the election of minorities more of a reality.
King also fought to end segregation in public buildings, public facilities, restaurants, hotels, schools and other places.
King was shot to death April 4, 1968, while standing on a Memphis hotel balcony. He was in the city attending a rally for striking garbage collectors.
Monday’s memorial program in Tupelo began with a motorcade beginning on Eason Boulevard at the Veterans Boulevard intersection near the VFW Post. The parade then proceeded along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Highway, also known as U.S. 45-Bypass. It then headed down Main Street, to Gloster, to Jefferson, to Spring and ended at the church.
Once there, the packed house heard emotional speaking sprinkled with snippets of King’s speeches. There was also a lot of singing and talk about the past and present and the future of Lee County and its children.
“What are we going to do when we leave here today? Are we going to we go right back to our old complacent ways” Jamison asked.
“We can’t wait,” he said. “I’m tired of watching our children drop out of schoolÉ our children bringing more children into the world É law enforcement treating our children differently. We have to do something.”
At the end of the hourlong program, organizers started a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. educational fund that will be given to a Lee County college bound student.
“As long as you have hope, you have a way,” Jamison said.
Also in Tupelo on Monday, the city’s Rotary Club heard a holiday message from Bishop William Morris who represents the Alabama and West Florida conference of the United Methodist Church.
Morris, the first black bishop in the conference, invoked a familiar advertising jingle to illustrate his point that, “We’ve got to teach the world to sing in harmony.”
“We can’t get rid of one another for God created us in His image and we this day are united whether we want to be or not,” Morris said. “We can’t get rid of each other so it behooves us to learn to live in peace and harmony with each other.”
The Lane Chapel Quartet also performed for the Rotary Club’s Martin Luther King holiday program.
Daily Journal staff writer Marty Russell contributed to this report.