Local celebration planned for MLK Day
Marchers will line the streets of Russellville Monday to honor the memory of slain civil rights leader and activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The annual memorial service has been held in northwest Alabama for years and rotates each year between Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin counties.
This year's activities will begin at 10 a.m. at the Chucky Mullins Multipurpose Center in Russellville. At 10:45 a.m., a march will begin from the center to the courthouse traveling along Washington Avenue.
There, a celebration program will be held from noon to 12:45 p.m. with several speakers from across the area and featuring keynote speaker Carlton Hamilton, of Collierville, Tenn.
Hamilton is a past recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial scholarship through the local MLK committee.
"We give 18 $1,000 scholarships each year to help keep Dr. King's dream alive by keeping our kids in school," Rev. Charlie Burgess said.
Burgess is president of the northwest Alabama MLK committee and said events such as Monday's celebration are vital to remembering all of those who gave their lives during the civil rights movement.
"Dr. King did many, many things for the world as a whole," Burgess said. "He opened the school doors for us, but he also opened doors where we could run for positions we couldn't then.
"Right now, there is a black man running for president of the United States. Had it not been for men like Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy and all those civil rights workers, we would probably still be in the same rut."
Burgess said that he, himself, is a beneficiary of King's efforts and sacrifices.
"I started working at Reynolds as a janitor and ended up spending 16 years as a supervisor," he said. "That was unheard of at one time."
Rev. Charles Dale remembers marching in Russellville on the weekend after King's death in 1968 and then in 1986 worked to help organize an annual event.
"We march now so that our young people know that the privileges they have now came with a heavy price," Dale said. "They need to be grateful for those who fought, bled and died for them. It did not come easy."
Following the celebration at the courthouse Monday, there will be a luncheon at the A.W. Todd Center beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The activities will conclude that evening with a service and concert at First Baptist Church, College Avenue beginning at 6 p.m.