RALEIGH – On Monday, the Martin Luther King Memorial March on Fayetteville street in Raleigh brought families out in freezing temperatures to walk in honor of Dr. King. As the group of several hundred quietly walked, a high school drum corps and gospel singer led the way.
Tom McNeill marches with his family
“It’s important to honor the memory of Dr. King, and share it with the next generation,” said Tom McNeill, who walked in the cold with his three young children, carrying the smallest on his shoulders.
The somber walk was to honor the contributions of King and those who worked for the historic civil rights movement. The march route took the crowd past the old state capitol, where work began recently on the a monument honor African Americans in North Carolina.
“It’s only fitting that as we celebrate the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are finally seeing concrete steps toward building a monument honoring the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina’s history,” Gov. Pat McCrory said from the Alamance County Breakfast Celebration on Monday.
Planning on the monument got underway this week as appointed members of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and the North Carolina Historical Commission met in the governor’s conference room in the old capitol. They will begin holding open meetings across the state this spring to get public comments on a design for the new monument. The first task will be identifying an architect to lead the project.
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis also issued a statement in honor of the civil rights leader.
“Today we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose unwavering pursuit in defense of the freedoms and liberties of all our citizens made America a greater and more prosperous nation.”
Friday, McCrory joined the annual State Employee Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration at First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh. McCrory presented The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the states highest honor, to two families that were instrumental in the civil rights movement in North Carolina. John and Selelia Griffith of Yancey County sued the Yancey County School Board in federal court in 1959 to enforce integration provisions of the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision. Patricia Griffith Watkins and John Griffith, Jr. accepted the honor on behalf of their parents.
Longtime Hamlin Drug Company owner, John M. Johnson, was also honored with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Johnson, a pharmacist, bought the Hamlin Drug Company in 1957 and dedicated himself to helping all customers equally for more than 50 years. The award was accepted by Michelle Corbin, Johnson’s daughter.
Stanley C. Melvin, Center Director at Pitt Regional Juvenile Detention Center, was awarded the John R. Larkins award, the highest civil rights honor that can be won by a state employee. The award was presented by the secretary of administration and human relations.