story and photos by Ruby Dean
With the threat of rain and cold temperatures, few citizens came out to watch the Martin Luther King Parade on Saturday (Jan. 12). The 15th annual parade began at 2 p.m. and is the kick-off of community events that will include awarding scholarships to area college students.
The rain had stopped shortly before the parade began and the rain stayed away long enough for the parade participants to finish their march down Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith.
Participants included Euba Winton, who served as parade marshal, Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders and Miss University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Savannah Valentine. Participants threw candy to the crowd with children gathering up the loot. The parade consisted of 45 entries, which was more than the previous years, and lasted about 30 minutes.
In 1972, Deborah Woodard was in her senior of high school and was at the court house getting her driver's license.
"I remember seeing the restroom doors that read white and colored. It was very shocking,” Woodard explained. “Now, the restrooms read men and women. I can eat any place I want now and my kids can go to school wherever they want. We have come a long way and still have further to go."
The life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be recognized in January with several events sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee and the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. It takes the committee about nine months to plan out the events.
Activities include the parade, a banquet on Jan. 19 followed by a breakfast on January 21 with educational sessions and a campus march. Rounding out the events is a panel discussion by community leaders which will focus on the 50th anniversary of King's famed "I Have a Dream" speech, as well as awards honoring the unsung heroes on Jan. 22.
The breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 21 at the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center at UAFS. A full morning of activities are slated on the UAFS campus. A march that will end at the University's bell tower will be followed by the opportunity to view the inauguration of the President of the United States. The public is invited.
On Jan. 22, a panel compromised of community leaders will discuss King's contributions to a changing society under the theme of "Unsung Heroes – Fifty Years of ‘I Have a Dream.’”
Link here for more information about the events, and how to get tickets.