CHARLES TOWN – A short march and talk on Sunday will highlight the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – including his legacy as a person rather than the civil rights icon.
Dr. Zakee McGill, who serves as the president of Berkeley County’s NAACP branch, will be the featured speaker at the formal presentation at Wright Denny Intermediate School in Charles Town.
King “the very human person, not the icon, not a super human,” explains McGill, a physician whose maternal grandparents lived in Charles Town.
Seeing King as a person offers lessons for everyone today, McGill said. The march that precedes the formal program this year will have “peace and love” as its theme.
Leaders of the Jefferson County NAACP have organized the MLK march and program in Charles Town for more than 40 years, even before the creation of the federal holiday for King.
The formal program is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Betty J. Roper auditorium at Wright Denny.
Before the talk, George Rutherford – the president of the NAACP branch in Jefferson County since 1974 – and others will lead a procession the six blocks to the school from the Charles Town Library.
The annual Martin Luther King Freedom Trail March will leave from the library at 200 E. Washington St. at 2 p.m.
The event comes more than a week before the federal holiday honoring King, set for Jan. 21.
The Charles Town march is always held on the Sunday before King’s birthday actual birthdate on Jan. 15. The Jefferson County event began in 1973, 13 years before the creation of the federal holiday.
King was 39 when a gunman shot him outside his motel the evening of April 4, 1968, during a trip to Memphis, Tenn., to show support for the city’s garbage collectors, who were seeking a living wage and safer working conditions.
On Jan. 21, the local MLK commemorations will continue with the annual Martin Luther King Scholarship Breakfast organized by the Jefferson County Black Clergy Association.
The breakfast, open to anyone, begins at 9:30 a.m. that Monday at Independent Fire Hall at 200 W. Second Ave. in Ranson.
Adults pay $20 while students – including those enrolled at Shepherd University and other institutions of higher learning – pay $10. Children 5 and younger get in free.
Tickets should be purchased in advance by calling Dale Brown at 304-229-6447 or Delores Foster at 304-876-8008.