MLK remembered: Breakfast, parade honors Dr. King

Published 7:30 pm Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Monday was a day to both remember history and to make it in the Camellia City.

Hundreds braved the beautiful, but extremely chilly morning to attend the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast hosted by the Butler County Civic League, with the first-ever MLK Day Parade following at midday in Downtown Greenville.

Held at the Dunbar Center, the program, presided over by emcees Mykel Cheatham and Jakaria Rivers, featured the Greenville High School JROTC color guard’s Presentation of Colors and remarks by BCCL Chair George Cook and a number of city, county and state representatives.

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The Rev. Dr. King was lauded by the morning’s speakers for his courage, tenacity and for leading by example. 

“It was hard to get up on this cold morning – and I imagine there were mornings when Dr. King didn’t want to get up, either,” Butler County Commissioner Jesse McWilliams said. “There were times he probably didn’t want to have to speak before a crowd, but he did it, anyway. He could have just stayed preaching at his church, but he went beyond that.”

Rep. Chris Sells, District 90, emphasized that Dr. King “should not celebrated one day, but every day as we reflect on and try to follow King’s example.”

Musical and step performances by Hilary King and group and the Sigma Beta Club members were also highlights of the program.

As Hilary King’s group performed additional inspirational and patriotic selections for the crowd, members of the Greenville High School JROTC program and other volunteers prepared and served the country-style breakfast plates for the attendees.

Keynote speaker, the Rev. Dennis Benoit (D.B.) Bennett, currently serving as pastor of Free Water Baptist Church near Mobile, is no stranger to the area. The Gee’s Bend native once served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Butler County. 

“It’s good to be in your presence once again – each time I am more and more impressed by what you are doing in this city and county. Thank God for the BCCL and what you continue to accomplish,” Bennett said.

He focused on the importance of knowing one’s history, and the tragedy that can occur when that history is forgotten or ignored.

“There was a king in Egypt who did not know Joseph’s history; he could not have known him personally, as Joseph lived many generations before that king,” Bennett said. “But he should have known the story of Joseph, all he went through, and how the providence of God was at work in Joseph’s life. This king, however, had missed out on all the lessons to be learned from Joseph’s history. He could have saved himself and his nation a lot of heartache if he had not resisted when Moses said, ‘Let my people go,’ instead, his own people suffered all those plagues and then there was the death of his own son.”

Bennett reminded his listeners of the importance of remembering and appreciating their own history.

“Dr. King left a legacy for us – we can see the providence of God working in his life, too,” Bennett said. “In April of 1954, he became the pastor of Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery. A year later Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, leading to the Bus Boycott. God brought these people together with their courage and their boldness . . . giving birth to the Civil Rights Movement and Voting Rights Act.”

The keynote speaker said while he had attended many MLK events in larger cities across the country, he had never seen one better supported than in Butler County.

“Truthfully, every MLK celebration should be overflowing because of the great legacy and history we carry forth,” Bennett concluded. “Never let that legacy die.”

Shortly after midday, the city’s very first MLK Day Parade got underway on Commerce Street.  Eugene Parker served as grand marshal, with dozens of units participating, including local businesses, service sororities, Scout troops and churches. A group from neighboring Lowndes County also honored their slain sheriff, marching with a large banner in remembrance of the late John “Big John” Williams, who was shot and killed in late November 2019.

Also joining the parade were a number of classic restored vehicles, along with several ATV riders.