By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Etta Scott, chairperson for the Martin Luther King Day celebration in Picayune, said everything is ready to honor the slain civil rights leader, during festivities set Monday in King’s memory. Festivities in Picayune will include a parade and services at Rose of Sharon Church, following the parade.
As residents of Picayune are honoring the slain civil rights leader’s memory, President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president will sworn in for his second term of office.
She said line-up for the parade will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, 501 Weems St. The parade will then wind down Rosa Street to Beech Street and then turn right to Rose of Sharon Church, 500 Beech St., where festivities will include “old-time services” and gospel singing.
Officials expect this year’s celebrations to be bigger than last year, when the Rose of Sharon was packed for the celebration.
“Dr. King preached change through nonviolence, and we need more than ever to hear what he said. That’s why the theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Keeping the Dream Alive’,” she said.
Grand Marshal for the parade is Elder David Simmons, pastor of Rose of Sharon. Featured keynote speaker is the Rev. Jimmy Richardson, who is also head of the Pearl River County NAACP, and who is active throughout the community. Also speaking will be Pearl River County board of supervisors president J. Patrick Lee and state probation officer Donald Dunstan. Richardson’s Christian testimony is widely known here: he says the Lord saved him while he was in prison on a drug charge and turned him into a family man and a minister.
Queen of the festivities is long-time Picayune educator Sister Christine Frelix Doby, and King of the festivities is Dub Herring founder of Dub Herring Ford and Paw Paw’s Camper City. Herring is affectionately known throughout the South as “Paw Paw,” a name given to him by his grandchildren.
Herring took a small Ford dealership in Picayune he bought in 1978 and turned it into one of the most successful in the U.S. and Southern states.
After festivities at Rose of Sharon, there will be an old-time dinner-on-the-grounds at the church. Scott said that everyone throughout Pearl River County is invited to participate in the festivities.
“If you would like to just walk in the parade to join in the memory of Dr. King’s life, you are welcome to do so,” said Scott. “We want everyone, black and white, small child and adult and our senior citizens to participate in these festivities that will help lift our community and bring us closer together.”
King’s Day is now a federal holiday. It is always celebrated on the third Monday of January in close conjunction to his Jan. 15 birthday.
Historians say King was the chief spokesman and leader for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. He successfully protested against racial discrimination in federal and state law.
His nonviolent approach was credited with changing the course of American history.
The push for a national holiday honoring King began shortly after his 1968 death in Memphis, where an assassin’s bullet killed him.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law honoring King’s life with a national holiday dedicated to his memory.
Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, stood next to Reagan as he signed the bill into law.